Fulbright scholarships for BHF
In April 2017 the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission and the Balkan Heritage Foundation announced a new study/research scholarship in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, history, preservation of cultural heritage and museum studies. It provides an opportunity for students to conduct research in areas related to one or more of the following topics:
- Relations between Ancient Greek and Thracian civilizations
- Roman civilization in the Balkans
- Early Byzantine/Early Christian Balkans
- Architecture and arts of medieval and postmedieval Balkans (incl. Byzantium)
- Heritage and museum studies
- Underwater archaeology
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ACCEPTED DEGREE LEVELS
Upon arrival in Bulgaria, the grantee receives ongoing academic guidance from the Balkan Heritage Foundation and their academic partners. He or she also attends a field school at the beginning or end of their grant period. The student may also take a university course to expand their knowledge and network with other academics. Grantees are expected to produce a tangible outcome – paper, conference presentation, etc. – from their research by the end of the grant period.
To learn more about the current Fulbright competition cycle, please, visit their page.
Date: March – September, 2022
Project title: Cross-Cultural Influences on the Decorative Stone Elements of Nessebar’s Medieval Churches
Mary Rzepczynski possessed a BA degree in architecture when she came to Bulgaria in 2022 to explore the architecture of Nessebar’s medieval and post-medieval churches at the cultural confluence of the Byzantine empire with the medieval Bulgarian empire. Previously a city on the border of these two empires, Nessebar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to many significant early Christian and Byzantine churches. Mary’s project seeked to expand the existing documentation of the stone decorative elements, such as columns and altar screens, and analyze the evolution of these cross-cultural building elements over time. Because of the many churches in one place, working at Nessebar allowed for the comparison of the stone architectural elements over time, limiting the variable of location in examining the cross-cultural interactions of decorative design elements. At Nessebar, she utilized traditional and digital techniques, such as measured drawings, sketches, and photography in order to document the decorative stone elements of these medieval churches.
Mary Rzepczynski participated in the Fresco-Hunt of theBalkan Heritage Field School. Her research in Bulgaria facilitated finding a job in a church architectural studio back in the USA.
“It is hard to believe that my time in Bulgaria is coming to an end, and I am so grateful to Fulbright Bulgaria and the Balkan Heritage Foundation for allowing me to have this opportunity. Receiving this grant was critical for my scholarly development. As my first major independent research project involving on-site work, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and encouraged to develop my own work and ideas in a new way. This has allowed me to build upon my existing foundation, but also to take the next step along the scholarly path. Following my time in Bulgaria, I will be working at an architecture firm that specializes in the design of churches (Duncan Stroik Architect) and serving as an assistant editor for the Sacred Architecture Journal. I hope to bring both the specific knowledge that I gained while in Bulgaria, and the skills I learned here to these positions. I will also be applying to PhD programs in the fall, and hope to continue working on the architectural history of cross-cultural spaces and places.
Attending the Balkan Heritage Field School “Fresco Hunting: Photo Research Expedition to Medieval Balkan Churches” was one of the highlights of my time in Bulgaria. I gained invaluable skills in photography and documentation, but also was able to experience first-hand the structuring and management of a large, complex, multi-year research project. Between trekking past goat herds to identify churches in the exploratory phase of the project to working on the final stages of the forthcoming e-book on the frescoes of the Boyana Church in Sofia, I was able to see into the life cycle of the project. Being involved in multiple stages allowed me to imagine how I might develop and lead a similarly complex project in the future.
Additionally, working with the Balkan Heritage Foundation was an indispensable chance to observe the research, teaching, and outreach of a non-profit organization in cultural heritage. One of the most meaningful experiences in Bulgaria was visiting the Museum of Christian Art in the crypt of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with several Ukrainian refugees as part of Balkan Heritage’s “Cultural Welcome”. Balkan Heritage is a leader in public outreach and engagement, and understanding the variety of ways they achieve this was critical in pushing me to develop a PhD proposal that will include this, as well as considering how to make the research I did while in Bulgaria available to a general audience.
As someone who is still in the early stages of a scholarly career, receiving this grant has allowed me to continue to develop and explore my research interests. It also allowed me to be exposed to the many people working in the heritage sector, from museum professionals, non-profits, and academics. My Fulbright experience was challenging but immensely rewarding. Beyond the specific auspices of my research topic, I also had the incredible chance to dive into the broader history and rich cultural heritage of Bulgaria.”