The Linda Hall Library is pleased to announce the selection of our 2021-22 scholar-in-residence, Shannon Jackson, PhD, an associate professor of anthropology and department chair in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“The scholar-in-residence program was established in 2019 to support talented researchers from the Kansas City area whose work would benefit from sustained engagement with the Linda Hall Library’s collections,” explained Benjamin Gross, the Library’s vice president for research and scholarship. “This year, we are thrilled to honor an exceptional scholar from UMKC who is exploring how materials science and civil engineering fundamentally reshaped our community.”

Dr. Jackson’s research focuses on material culture and the impact of infrastructure on society. During her time at the Library, she will examine how engineers used concrete to transform urban landscapes in early 20th century America. Her investigations will draw upon the Linda Hall Library’s robust collection of engineering publications, technical standards, and trade journals.

Dr. Jackson is particularly interested in the prevalence of concrete in Kansas City, which now has more impermeable surfaces than any city in the United States. She suggests that the region underwent a fundamental transformation during the Progressive Era, specifically between World War I and World War II. This period was marked by rapid industrialization and urbanization. As Kansas City’s population grew, it became a testing ground for new building materials, zoning laws, and land-use regulations that all influenced the design of new infrastructure projects.

In addition to consulting the Library’s collections, Dr. Jackson is excited to discuss her project with a dynamic community of in-house experts and visiting researchers. “I am accustomed to being alone and lonely in libraries. It is sort of a professional hazard…,” she joked. “To actually have a conversation with other scholars is great. To me, that’s a luxury.”
Through her research, Dr. Jackson says she is looking for ways to improve cities and encourage people to reflect upon the origins of the infrastructure that they depend on every day. “As an anthropologist, my professional goal is to advocate for humans, to make the world humane, and support humans better. Cities are themselves life-support systems for humans. I’ve been looking at the ways we can improve that life-support system.”

“At a moment when the future of America’s infrastructure is front-page news, Dr. Jackson reminds us that these debates have a much longer history, one in which Kansas City played a prominent role,” Dr. Gross noted. “It is therefore only fitting that this city’s leading science and engineering library should support her research.”

Dr. Jackson’s residency will begin in July and continue through October 2021.