Category: Adventures in the Archives

VD in the Archives

For something that played such a prevalent role in life at the front, sex and venereal disease (or VD) have been largely underrepresented thus far in the public remembrance of the centenary of the First World War. In 1916, one in five of all admissions of British and Allied troops to hospitals in France and… Read more →

Almost Fourteen: The Book That Stopped Me in My Research Tracks

One of the things I always warn people about before their first archival trip is just how boring historical research can be. We sit for days in silent archives, flipping through folders of papers, hoping to find little tidbits that we can build into a cohesive narrative about the past. (Thank goodness for the invention… Read more →

Pictures of an Institution: Birth Records at Old Blockley

On September 22, 1859, 30-year-old Margaret Merchant of Philadelphia was admitted to the obstetrical ward at the Blockley Almshouse. She was pregnant with her sixth child — a boy, though with the ultrasound almost exactly a century in the future, Mrs. Merchant could not have known that at the time. A mother of five, Mrs…. Read more →

Adventures in the Archives: The First Time

The possibility of having an “adventure in the archives” always seemed a bit far-fetched. My perceptions of academia, particularly as they related to notions of adventurousness, were dominated by images of Indiana Jones holding a dirty artifact and marking an X on a map. When Professor Carolyn Lewis (the adviser to whatever academic adventures loomed… Read more →

Adventures in the Archives: Living in a Material World

By Jacqueline Antonovich

A wise woman once remarked, “We are living in a material world and I am a material girl.” And while this ode to consumption may have been referring to the procurement and enjoyment of luxury items, I think Madonna may have been on to something – though perhaps not in the way she intended. You see, over this past summer I had an unintentional, but deeply meaningful, love affair with . . . material culture.

Adventures in the Archives: The Dangers of Legal Abortion

This summer I worked with Professor Carolyn Herbst Lewis and three other students on a research project in which we explored the history of reproductive health care in Chicago. Part of our summer included a trip to Chicago to do archival research on our subjects, and, after a month of poring over secondary research, I… Read more →

Adventures in the Archives: Tales from the Crypt(ic) Rules of Archive Etiquette

This summer I, like many of my colleagues, packed up my laptop and #2 pencil and headed out to foreign archives in distant lands—and by that I mean I took a research trip through the beautiful U.S. Southwest. I had two archives to visit, and I was sure to contact both a couple of weeks… Read more →

Adventures in the Berlin Archives

By Rachel Epp Buller

As historians, we often work with primary sources – documents about a place or records of a person’s existence. Paging through issues of a journal from a hundred years ago can feel like traveling through time, and reading personal letters now held in an archive offers not only remarkable insights but also feelings of intimacy and privilege. But, what happens when you see something that you wish you hadn’t?

Adventures in the Archives: Searching for the Past

by Sarah Handley-Cousins

For much of this past year, I’ve been entrenched in dissertation research. Despite the long hours hunched over dusty papers, trying to decipher century-old handwriting, generally while cold and hungry, I’m not complaining. I’m continually amazed that I’m getting the opportunity to do exactly what I’ve always wanted: the work of history. What I wasn’t prepared for, necessarily, was the emotional work that would come along with it.

Adventures in the Archives…Of Our Lives

This semester, I taught an introductory-level course on historical methods. One of our tasks was to consider an array of historical materials. We read novels and memoirs; watched documentaries and Hollywood films; read speeches and government policies; looked at architectural plans and advertisements for suburban homes. We even watched an episode of Star Trek. Throughout this exploration, a theme we kept coming back to was how people of the past documented their daily lives. This prompted us to consider how historians of the future will examine our daily lives. What sources will they use? What sources are we leaving behind?