Thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend program, Jamie Bronstein, a New Mexico State University history professor, will be researching what was once known as New Mexico’s “Territorial Insane Asylum.”

A transatlantic historian, usually focused on Britain and the United States, Bronstein in recent years has grown interested in less researched areas of New Mexico history. Her current project is titled: “The "Insanity" of Colonialism: Mental Health in New Mexico, 1889-1930.” A $6,000 NEH stipend this summer will allow her to spend two months of uninterrupted research in various archives and databases to draw some conclusions about the state’s mental institution and the patients it served.

“The ‘Territorial Insane Asylum,’ as it was first called, has been an interest of mine since around 2019-2020, when I discovered that nobody had written anything about the asylum even though some of the records survive,” Bronstein said. “Some of the materials I work with are available through databases, including English and Spanish-language New Mexico newspapers and census records. ​Other materials are in the territorial archives, which the NMSU library owns on microfilm in Branson Library.”

Bronstein went to Kansas City to review records of the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, where some of New Mexico’s Indigenous people who were labeled mentally ill were sent.

“There are other records I should look at in the National Archives and Records Center in Denver,” Bronstein said. “Using these records, I am constructing a database of the patients who were served at various points in the covered period, and I will be using that database to draw some conclusions about geographic use patterns, readmissions, on-site deaths, etc.”

NMSU history department head Elizabeth Horodowich explained the importance of Bronstein’s achievement as NEH grants are highly competitive. According to their website, over the last five years, the NEH Summer Stipend program has had an average of 827 applications each year, while awarding 81summer stipends, for a funding rate of 10%.

“It’s a real testament to the importance of Jamie’s research, as well as to the diligence with which she crafted her proposal,” Horodowich said. “In addition, Jamie was able to win this grant, in part, as a result of the generous support of the NMSU Arts and Humanities Seed Grant program, which allowed her to do enough initial research to be able to apply for and win this grant.”

NEH Summer Stipends support continuous full-time work on a humanities project for a period of two consecutive months. These funds may support recipients’ compensation, travel and other costs related to the proposed scholarly research. The stipends support a wide range of individuals, including independent scholars, community college faculty and non-teaching staff at universities.

Bronstein will share tips for success in applying for the NEH Summer Stipend program at the NMSU Research Administration NEH Summer Stipend information session for faculty. Participants also will learn about NMSU's faculty nomination process at the session from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 24 on Zoom.

Bronstein will continue her research while on sabbatical in fall 2024. Her goal is to have a book proposal and sample chapters by the end of the year so she can begin querying presses for publication.

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