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RCC's Katrin Kleemann accepts John Carter Brown Library Fellowship

Earthquakes and Timekeeping in Early America


Congratulations to RCC doctoral candidate Katrin Kleemann, who has been awarded a short-term fellowship at the John Carter Brown Library. The JCB Library is an independently funded research library of history and the humanities on the campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The library's rare book, manuscript, and map collections encompass a variety of topics related to the history of European exploration and colonization of the New World until circa 1825. Katrin will join the JCB Library for three months in the spring of 2021 to conduct archival research for her new project "Earthquakes in New England, 1600-1800: Extraordinary Natural Events Shine a Light on Timekeeping and Recordkeeping Practices in Early America."

Below is a brief summary of Katrin's fascinating project:

New England is more seismically active than most would expect. In early America, earthquakes were rare enough, however, to be perceived as unusual events that diarists remarked upon. For research on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, earthquakes can serve as fascinating time markers that give insights into timekeeping and recordkeeping practices. Clocks were still rare, yet the diarists often gave a precise time when an earthquake struck—which varied drastically from observer to observer. This allows questions on how and how reliably time was kept, whether the diarist owned a clock, looked at a town clock, or estimated the time.