Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What "Research" Looks Like

Though my life has been very preoccupied with research for my senior honors thesis, I have yet to blog about it. WOOPS! In the following post, I'm just going to talk a bit about what my research looks like, what I actually spend my hours doing, and weigh some thoughts about. *In the process of writing this I realized probably no one is interested in the procedural workings of archival research. So I don't actually say that much about procedure. You're welcome, haha!

The first batch of archival research I conducted was at Stanford University's Hoover Institution Archives. I worked with documents from the 1920's and 30's: (handwritten) student essays, personal correspondence, official government documents, saved newspaper clippings, transcripts of conversations - you name it. This is a picture of the Hoover Tower @ Stanford - I worked beside and below the tower. Unfortunately no pictures of the archive reading area, but it's not that exciting. Just a bunch of people sitting around tables with lots of old documents and getting reprimanded by the Archivists for not following rules about handling documents!

A few months ago I got an undergraduate research scholarship to come to Columbia to start work in another set of archives on Robert College. I've included some better pictures of Columbia....

Butler Library, where the Rare Book and Manuscript Library is located. Butler is one of the main college libraries, so it is familiar to most of everyone that goes to Columbia. Didn't seem that many undergrads visited the 6th floor, however, which is full of reading rooms and of course, the archives!

Terrible state of affairs with some of the documents. As you can see, it looks like absolute chicken scratch. I took a looksie at these and panicked for a good half hour that there would simply be no way of deciphering the writing. But luckily, as we move away from 1860, the paper, ink, and script gets much better. Today I got to typed documents, woot woot!

The Archival Reading Room: A bunch of desks like this, surrounded by an interesting assortment of people also conducting research. I am always so curious about what other people are reading, but it doesn't seem to be in etiquette to have conversations with other researchers.

The coolest thing about historical archival research is that it brings you to cool places (ex/ I am in new york). In my next blog I will write about actually fun things I have done in the city, besides reading obscure documents. For now, the view from my room in the Upper West Side (graciously provided by Rah and Edwin!)