Comments on: Sister Agnes explains why you still need to visit the archives http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 02 Sep 2014 05:10:57 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Tales from the archives : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-665085 Sat, 10 Jul 2010 12:28:19 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-665085 [...] know, I’m becoming tiresome for always nagging you to get your sorry behinds into the archives and start digging, as opposed to relying on on-line [...]

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By: Jonathan Rees http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-581643 Fri, 26 Mar 2010 23:16:38 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-581643 Historiann:

It’s funny that you’re writing about archives as I just spent two days in one (and had way too much fun in the process). While I love archives, I think you should cut less archivally inclined people a little slack depending upon their subdiscipline.

My three favorites (in no particular order) are labor history, business history and the history of technology. All the significant archival collections in these areas that I’ve ever used have huge holes in them, probably thanks to the tendency of businesses to destroy records first and ask questions later so that lawyers won’t go after them somewhere down the line.

Even at the Hagley Museum and Library (a particularly lovely archive that will actually give you money to visit there), my tendency is to hang out in the old trade journals. Most turn-of-the-twentieth century trade journals are massive, honking volumes that are extremely rare (even on Google Books) and you can’t get them many other places in the country. The last time I checked, where I went to graduate school had the fourth largest library in the country and its collection of trade journals is paltry compared to Hagley’s.

Where am I going with this? I don’t know – maybe that it’s not the kind of sources that really matter, so long as you make the effort to find the stuff that most people wouldn’t look for otherwise. After all, we’re historians, not journalists. Total immersion in your subject is practically a job requirement.

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By: How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-581413 Fri, 26 Mar 2010 17:04:11 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-581413 [...] include archival work, friends!  And an archivist named Jacob who blogs at Jacobpedia has already jumped into the old Sister Agnes thread–his blog is worth checking [...]

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By: Jacob http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-581408 Fri, 26 Mar 2010 16:55:18 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-581408 Notorious’s comments reveal a problem that many archivists deal with on a day-to-day basis. At the archives where I work, we recently undertook a project to recatalog a number of collections processed in the mid-twentieth century. Women’s and gender history had largely been ignored. That was the primary offense, but not the only one, by far.
The same problems occur with translations and transcriptions done by archivists. Even when done with good intentions, older transcriptions are often incomplete, if not inaccurate. But, in some cases, minor editing was done to obscure material deemed scandalous. Although most archivists now prefer to improve rather than restrict access, some still have it in their mind that they should serve as a censor. At a recent SAA workshop, a colleague from a nearby archive revealed that she had tossed a Playboy found in a collection because she thought it was “inappropriate.”

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By: Librarians, archivists, and access to archives : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-335235 Sun, 14 Jun 2009 13:56:57 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-335235 [...] we all are to take Sister Agnes’s advice and consult manuscript archival material, we all must rely on the goodwill and advice of librarians [...]

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By: Shaz http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-331634 Wed, 10 Jun 2009 09:29:35 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-331634 Digger — re: microfilm: a colleague I know completely screwed up a published transcript of an extensive early c19 legal case as a result of only being allowed to use the microfilm, which was really difficult to read due to writing on both side of the page. A more senior scholar was allowed to see the originals and realized the errors, with disastrous results for my colleague, who got skewered. Ouch!

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By: Digger http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-331227 Tue, 09 Jun 2009 21:38:37 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-331227 Microfilms can be great. If they’re done correctly. In a worst case scenario, you could at least read them with a magnifier and a light source. The preference of digitization, even over keeping originals, scares me *much* more, as formats change so quickly (never mind archivability of media).

Shaz: “So we get increased access to certain kinds of historical documents and local archives are going bankrupt. I worry.” Exactly.

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By: Susan http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-331179 Tue, 09 Jun 2009 18:33:56 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-331179 There are great lines in the English Historical Manuscrips Commission reports from the late 19th C (where they went around to great houses and wrote reports on the manuscripts) saying “Miscellaneous family letters of no historical interest”. Now sometimes we can go read htem, but not always. And I wish they had calendared them as carefully as they did the political correspondence!

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-331058 Tue, 09 Jun 2009 12:36:32 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-331058 Shaz–you express my worries exactly. And as Notorious’s comment suggests, technology may be good but it’s never as good as the next technology. (Ahhh, microfilm! The cutting-edge technology of 1938…) There are some eastern U.S. archives that try to fob microfilm off on me, but they’ve been very helpful once I explain that I’m not an amateur, and they bring me the originals. (Some state and local archives have a LOT of genealogists and family history people in them all of the time, and in those cases, it’s probably sensible not to haul out the 17th and 18th C originals for every looky-loo.)

Digger, I’ve been thinking about using “sauvage” untranslated where I can’t avoid it, and avoiding it for the most part. Great minds think alike!

And, Indyanna–Pyne was our featured guest lecturer this year at Baa Ram U., but unfortunately, his visit was scheduled to coincide exactly with the OAH, so I missed seeing him. Bad timing! (His environmental history perspective and expertise on forestry fits right into Baa Ram U., as you might imagine.) I heard he gave some interesting talks.

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By: Notorious Ph.D. http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/08/sister-agnes-explains-why-you-still-need-to-visit-the-archives/comment-page-1/#comment-331013 Tue, 09 Jun 2009 11:45:43 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5667#comment-331013 The first time I went to the archives, I started by consulting the c. 19 index, located in the archive´s reference room, handwritten by the archivist at that time. I was planning on working on a project on sexuality, but I ended up giving it up because, after going through 50 years´worth of index, I couldn´t find a single reference. Only later, after getting going on a new topic, did I realize that there were plenty such documents. It´s just that the archivist hadn´t considered things like sexual behavior (even when it resulted in criminal charges) worth mentioning, because it wasn´t “real” history.

Another sad note: in the past 3 years, my main archive has made considerable progress in microfilming or digitizing nearly everthing from my period, which means that they no longer let you consult the original. Which is ridiculous.

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