Through a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, Katherine Cornell ’15 is living among the cultural history and traditions she is researching and working to preserve. Based in Delhi, India, she is staying “across the street from a 14th-century mosque and across the main road from a 15th-century tomb complex. And Humayun’s Tomb, the 16th-century site I extensively studied in my art history classes, is a 20-minute drive away.”
Cornell, who majored in art history and minored in Asian studies and European studies, is collaborating with local and global conservation organizations to preserve and restore historic Indian architectural sites.
With the World Monuments Fund (WMF), she has conducted field visits to the I’timad-ud-Daulah, a Mughal-era tomb garden in Agra constructed about 10 years before the Taj Mahal.
“A portion of my Honors thesis on Mughal gardens was dedicated to this site, so I naturally jumped on the opportunity to study the restoration work going on there,” she says. “The WMF here in Delhi, in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India, is currently working to restore the tomb and the surrounding gardens to their original Mughal style.”
In October, Cornell had the opportunity to plant a mango tree on the site during the Tree Planting Ceremony, an event to symbolize the beginning of the garden restoration.
Delhi’s “rich cultural history and gorgeous built heritage,” Cornell says, poses challenges though, as the process of conservation can be “complex, long and arduous.”
“Each project has to account for the opinions and desires of multiple stakeholders, conservation experts, owners of the site, and communities surrounding the site, among other groups,” she says.
Cornell believes the time she has spent researching in India “has undoubtedly sharpened my research skills, and I now feel confident in my ability to conduct qualitative research in a foreign country. The lessons I learned during the Fulbright will definitely carry over into the rest of my life.”
Known for its competitive field of applicants, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Cornell is one of seven members of the Classes of 2015 who received a Fulbright, a record number for a single year at the Colleges. HWS was also recently recognized as a top producer of 2013-2014 Fulbright U.S. Students.
Cornell spent the fall of her junior year studying in India, which offered a firsthand introduction to Indian culture, history, language and politics. She also spent the spring of her junior year abroad in Rome. At HWS, she was a recipient of a GOLD Challenge Annual Fund scholarship and also made the Dean’s list. She was a gallery manager at the Davis Gallery at Houghton House, an archive intern with the Geneva Historical Society, a collections intern with the Rochester Museum and Science Center, a tutor with America Reads and America Counts, and worked in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She served as president of the Art History Society and was a member of the Arts and Design Collective.
As a Fulbright research grant winner, Cornell has deferred her start date for the University of Rochester joint master’s degree program in photographic preservation and collections management. She anticipates commencing her studies there in fall 2016.
In the photo above, Katherine Cornell ’15 helps plant a mango tree at the I’timad-ud-Daulah during a tree planting ceremony.