Brielle Popolla '19
"History of the Deputy Center"
Major & Minor: History (major) and Museum Studies (minor)
Hometown: Clinton, New Jersey
Project Advisor(s): Dr. Bardsley and Dr. Paxton
Tell us about your research.
My research was about a plot of land in Upper Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, that Moravian College uses for biology research and soon experimental archaeology. My role was to research the history of the land and how it was used. I read deeds, general history books about Northampton, looked through Census records, conducted interviews, and researched ancestry. From this research, I pieced together the ownership of the land and tried to contextualize it with the general history of the area.
How did it materialize?
At the beginning of the semester, I was talking with Dr. Paxton about my schedule and the project was brought up. I was asked if I would like to help and I said yes!
What was the best part about working with your faculty advisor? What valuable insights did they bring to the research process?
My advisors were so understanding and helpful throughout the entire research process. Having two advisors was even more beneficial because they would both have different ideas and ways to go about further research. They also had slightly different interests in different areas in my research, which helped me to look into all aspects of the site.
What was your biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle was definitely the deeds. Finding ownership proved more difficult than initially thought. Once I thought I had it, the research turned confusing again. Also, once I found out owners, it was hard to know what they actually used the land for.
What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
My biggest takeaway was the physical research aspect. I felt like a detective and it was satisfying knowing that most of the history in the final report came from my research.
What was the result of your research?
My research resulted in us knowing the various owners of the Deputy Center land. We know who almost all the owners were, and we also know a little about how the physical land of Upper Mount Bethel and Northampton County was used. We know about local legends along with speculation about how some of the owners used the property.
Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, where would you like to see it go?
While I personally do not have the time or the physical ability to continue with my research currently, I would love to see a few more concrete results. For example, I was only able to find ownership back to the 1860’s. If I were to continue researching, I would like to try and trace the ownership to the very beginning. Also, if it were possible, I would like to find out more concretely how the owners used the land, if they did. A lot appeared to be absentee owners and it would be very helpful if there were a way to corroborate those facts.
In your own words, how do you feel about being rewarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program?
As I stated before, I did not seek out this SOAR project, I was asked if I would be willing to help, and I am very grateful for that. This project gave me many opportunities for hands on experience and lots of independent research. And with the project running for ten weeks, it let me explore more deeply the evidence and sources I found. Overall, I feel that I gained another layer of research skills that I would not have had if I had not completed this project. Other students should take advantage of the SOAR program because it is a way to gain further experience a topic as well as fine-tuning research skills.