Each semester the American Heritage Center offers a $500 cash award to a University of Wyoming student who has produced the best undergraduate research paper or project based substantially on AHC materials, such as manuscripts, rare books, photographs, audio-visual materials, etc. The award is funded entirely by voluntary donations from AHC faculty and staff.
For the spring 2010 semester, Jeanne Holland, associate professor in the English department, nominated Rory Gunderman, a student in her senior seminar, for his paper titled “New Historical Theory and an Anti-Masonic Edgar,” the Edgar being Edgar Allan Poe. Gunderman conducted his research in the Toppan Rare Books Library. Anne Marie Lane, AHC curator of rare books, presented the $500 check to Gunderman on September 7.
Gunderman used the text, Infidelity Unmasked, edited by Dyer Burgess and published 1831-1832, to characterize Poe’s story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” as a manifestation of the anti-Masonic rhetoric prevalent in the United States of the early nineteenth century, and particularly as a commentary on the disappearance of William Morgan, a contemporary of Poe’s and an outspoken critic of Freemasonry. At the award presentation, Gunderman commented that over the course of his research he was unable to find any other criticism linking the story to this cultural phenomenon, and Holland echoed this in her suggestion that he submit his scholarship to Poe Studies. Holland: “It’s teaching students like Rory that make my job such a pleasure.”
The Toppan Library holds over 50,000 items pertaining to topics as diverse as religious texts and hunting and fishing history. The Library is open for research Monday through Friday, 8:30-5. You can learn more about its holdings and view examples from the collection here.