Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Research Adventures!

To give us a taste of what it is like to research in the Grand Poobah of archives, I've asked a daring guest blogger to report from the inside. Here is what she says of the start of her adventure:

National Archives in D.C.:

written by a Ph.D. student researching/writing/stressing over her dissertation.

Day One:

Things to know about the archive experience:

1) You get to go through the back door, which is cool.

2) Security is tighter than in airports. I highly advise you to bring as little as possible to the Archives since they will treat you like a moron, particularly if you really are the moron that brought your overnight bag with you.

3) If you are wearing your coat, do not remove it when passing through security. You will start to because it’s a million degrees and you know that your coat will set off the metal detector, but then they will yell at you to leave it on, then yell at you when you set off the alarm. Once you set off the metal detector, they will then use a wand and tell you that your coat set off the alarm.

4) Bring a quarter. You get to store all your stuff in huge lockers so at least if you are the moron who brings all her stuff, you can at least find a place to store it.

5) Visualize being a camel. You may not drink, eat, take off your sweater, bring a case for your computer or camera, or bring paper or writing implements into “Archive I”. Downstairs they are more relaxed, but do not even think about screwing up upstairs. More on these adventures tomorrow.

6) In all however, people are extremely helpful and just doing their job. Mr Johnson, a middle aged man wearing what looks like a Navy jacket, was particularly helpful. He determined that a big chunk of what I’m looking for is on microfilm which is great (I think) and helped me fill out the request form for the archives (see #7).

7) The archives contain enough paper that if places end to end would circle the earth 57 times. Or 57 million times. Or something like that. This is a big place and while some is organized, be prepared to spend a lot of time searching. And searching. They like their indexes in booklets placed in binders there. Preferably if the booklets were printed before 1957.

Stay tuned for more reports from the front lines of dissertating!

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