Over the last semester, we’ve been working with Wayne Graham at the Swem Library and some students and staff at the Charles Center to create a digital repository of honors theses. I just received my first email notification of a submission– an honors thesis by Sara Thomas entitled From Shadwell to Monticello: The Material Culture of Slavery, 1760-1774. Sarah is finishing up an interdisciplinary major in “Jefferson Studies” working closely with Jim Whittenburg:

…also give thanks to James Whittenburg for agreeing to the idea of a self-designed “Jefferson Studies,” major in the first place. I thank him for his tremendous support over the past four years, for driving me around Virginia to see the sites, and for asking tough questions about Jefferson.

I spent a few minutes reading through Sara’s thesis and found it a very interesting piece of scholarship. Without the electronic repository and email notification, I never would have been aware of this work or the fascinating major Sara had designed. I’m looking forward to seeing what other interesting things find their way to my inbox as we continue with this project. (I also think it’s a tribute to Jim’s commitment to his students that he receives thanks not only for his intellectual acumen but also for his chauffeuring skills!)

Harvard is following William and Mary’s lead in creating a central repository of senior theses. The “Free Thesis Project” is a student initiative of the Harvard Free College Culture group and is seen as a student-led extension of the open access motion recently enacted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The faculty project is being coordinated by Harvard University Library’s Office of Scholarly Communication. Typically Harvard has only retained hard copies of theses that receive honors or above.