(Un)Catalogued: Adventures in Historical Research

Beginning this week, I will be writing a regular column for JSTOR Daily, a new online magazine that “features topical essays that draw connections between current affairs, historical scholarship, and other content that’s housed on JSTOR.” In “(Un)Catalogued” (h/t to Paul Erickson for suggesting the title), I will be reporting on my adventures in historical research from brick-and-mortar and online archives, writing about print, visual, and material texts that are useful for teaching and research, or that are just plain awesome. Here is an excerpt from my first column:

Pencils, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Pencils, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

“Every archive is different, has its own set of rules. But by the time you sit down at a table in any special collections reading room you have likely filled out your paperwork and presented your ID. You have explained the topic of your research to an archivist, and described what documents you are interested in examining. You have stashed most of your belongings in a locker and carried only a laptop (absolutely no pens allowed!) into the room.

Once you sit down, you search for an outlet that works. You sift through a container of tiny pencils to find the one that is sharpest. This can take a while. You fill out the call slip (paper or electronic) and hand it to the archivist. Then you wait.

It is this ritual and its attendant pleasures—the sense of anticipation that grows in the time between the submission of the call slip and the delivery of materials, the serendipitous discoveries you make once you start reading through the documents—that keeps me coming back to the archive.”

To read the rest of this column, click here.

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