USC Price Professor Elizabeth Currid-Halkett Wins a Guggenheim Fellowship

Photo of Elizabeth Currid-Halkett
Elizabeth Currid-Halkett (Photo/Deborah Farnault)

Today the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced this year’s fellowship winners, including Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Chosen from a rigorous application and peer review process out of almost 2,500 applicants, Currid-Halkett is one of 171 successful applicants “appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise,” according to the foundation

Currid-Halkett holds the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning at the USC Price School. In 2022, she was appointed the Kluge Chair in Modern Culture at the Library of Congress. Her research focuses on the arts and culture, the American consumer economy and the role of culture in geographic and class divides.

“The Guggenheim Fellowship recognizes the talents and accomplishments of scholars who have made significant impact across every area of knowledge,” said USC Interim Provost Elizabeth Graddy. “I am excited to congratulate and recognize Elizabeth and her groundbreaking scholarship through this well-deserved fellowship.”

“Everyone at the USC Price School knew Elizabeth was brilliant. Now the whole world knows,” said Dana Goldman, dean and C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper Chair of the USC Price School. “She is not only an accomplished scholar, but also one of the most original thinkers at the University of Southern California.”

The fellowship will support Currid-Halkett’s research into the evolution of American cities. She plans to analyze archives of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from 1867 to 1977. These maps provide granular street-level data on more than 12,000 U.S. cities and towns during a time of vast social, cultural and economic change.

Sanborn maps, which helped fire insurance agents assess risk for specific properties, are a vastly understudied data collection. Currid-Halkett plans to compare the Sanborn Maps with archival zoning maps to study the evolution of the built environment through both lenses. Unlike conventional city zoning maps, which show legally prescribed uses of space, the Sanborn Maps detail how people actually used the built environment – and how this adaptability and repurposing of space is reflected in the economic development and the transformation of U.S. cities in the 19th and 20th centuries, according to Currid-Halkett.

“Truthfully, I am still in shock! The Guggenheim Fellowship is one of the highest awards someone in the humanities and social sciences can receive,” said Currid-Halkett. “I feel truly honored to be a part of this incredible intellectual and creative community.” 

Read more about Elizabeth’s story