History Department
History Department

History Majors Recipients of Rapoport-King Thesis Award

Wed, November 14, 2012
History Majors Recipients of Rapoport-King Thesis Award
Ady Wetegrove and Lidia Plaza

History majors Ady Wetegrove and Lidia Plaza have been selected as recipients of this year’s Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarships. Dr. Neil Kamil, associate professor of history, is the academic adviser for their honors theses.

Ady Wetegrove is fourth year history student from Corpus Christi, Texas. Her academic interests include American social history and material culture. On campus, Wetegrove is involved with the Liberal Arts Council and the Junior Fellows Program, and is currently working as an undergraduate intern at the Harry Ransom Center.

Dr. Kamil describes her thesis, “Behind the Curtain: The Artist as Collector in Peale’s Museum,” as an “ambitious project [that] uses sources from art history, history of science (especially the history of specimen collecting), and American political history, and concerns the American painter, scientist, museum impresario, natural philosopher, political operator, and antiquarian Charles Willson Peale. The project takes as its starting point Peale’s natural history museum (the subject for his very well-known painting of 1822, ‘The Artist in his Museum’). 

“Ady will focus on the whole museum project—she wants to know why and how it ‘failed’--but in particular she will analyze the ostensibly ‘unique’ American specimens collected and preserved in Peale’s museum (reconstructed in the painting) and the theatrical, money-making role Peale perceived for them as entertainment and evidence for the uniqueness of post-revolutionary America, both for the edification and unification of his ‘native’ audience at home and as part of a subtle process of distinction from Old World Europeans abroad (the painting and some specimens went on a European tour).”

After graduating high school in South Texas, Lidia Plaza spent a year at The University of Texas at San Antonio before coming to UT.  Though she originally majored in anthropology, Lidia eventually added a major in History and the History Honors Program, as her interest in culture expanded into an interest in past culture. 

Lidia’s thesis, “The First Crime of Fashion: Textile and Apparel Theft in Eighteenth-Century London,” examines London’s burgeoning textile industry; prices were dropping, sales were rising, and the industrial revolution was transforming the entire business.  On the consumer side, popular fashion was beginning to take hold, especially with the emergence of modern shops and shopping.  Her thesis analyzes these processes through the lens of criminals tried for textile and apparel theft, and investigates any changes in their behavior that were a result of the ancient industry of clothing becoming the modern industry of fashion.

Dr. Kamil believes that “Lidia may well produce a publishable article on the significance of textiles in everyday life in England.  In a place and period undergoing the so-called consumer revolution, Lidia wonders if theft is just shopping by another name. Lidia’s work is a real contribution to the enormous amount that has already been written by far more senior historians about early modern consumerism.”

The scholarships honor Audre and Bernard Rapoport and Robert D. King, former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Audre and Bernard Rapoport of Waco, Texas have provided an endowment that enables the College of Liberal Arts to provide scholarship and research support for those students who are writing a thesis in one of the Departmental Honors Programs the year they apply. Fellows are chosen on basis of academic record, the quality of the thesis proposal, and financial need. Those chosen are awarded a $2,500 scholarship. In addition, the student’s faculty mentor receives a $1,000 research stipend.

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