Category: Adventures in the Archives

Manslaughter or Necessary Operation? Abortion and Murder in Early 20th-Century Missouri

In April 2021, I was part of an exciting experimental conference, hosted by Dr. Courtney Thompson through Mississippi State University: Archival Kismet. In “Archival Kismet: a Manifesto,” Dr. Thompson outlines the goals of and thinking behind the conference. For me, the conference allowed me to reach out to other scholars to discuss sources that were a… Read more →

Blood, Teeth, and Fire: A Dispatch from Cincinnati, 1844

This is a story about walking between worlds. It happens now (more or less; December 2020) and also then (October 1844). In the present, I was working on the Dr. Todd A. Herring Collection, re-sorting folders and looking for pieces to scan so I could transcribe them over winter break. I am an archives nerd;… Read more →

Whale, Actually

Across the cover of the worn brown file, now property of the British National Archives, someone had written “Rations and Supplies – Dehydrated” in bright red pencil. This bland title gave little indication of what lay inside: a lengthy discussion about how Britain might feed its troops in South Asia in 1944, and specifically how… Read more →

Finding Friendship and Frustration in the Archive of an Institution for the “Feebleminded”

The methodology proposed by “Archival Kismet” is to go where the archive leads you (while bearing in mind, of course, all the people, structures, and historically contingent happenings that have produced “the archive” in its current form). Sometimes you follow archival sources down a dead-end rabbit hole, or along a new and exciting path of… Read more →

Archival Kismet: A Manifesto

In a fit of spring-cleaning early last year, my mother sent me a series of boxes filled with various mementos from my childhood and other things she wanted to get out of her closets and into mine. Tucked inside one of the boxes was a photocopy of a family recipe. This recipe was for varenyky… Read more →

FBI Files and Historical Practice

My undergraduates are always horrified to learn that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) once tried to convince Martin Luther King Jr. to kill himself or else it would release damning evidence of his extramarital affairs. The FBI’s letter to King is exemplary of the contentious relationship between the Bureau and social justice activists and… Read more →

What to Expect When You’re Expecting in the Nineteenth-Century U.S.

Type “pregnancy” into any internet search engine today, and you’ll literally get a billion results. This plethora of information at our fingertips feels quite modern, and yet it has a long history: American women have long turned to the printed word for advice about their reproductive bodies. In the nineteenth century, there were many competing… Read more →

Witness to Pain: The Migraine Art Collection

“Good morning Katherine, I just wanted to let you know that we have located the Migraine Art.” For four years, as I worked on the history of migraine, I had periodically been in touch with the team at Migraine Action, a UK-based advocacy charity for people with migraine.1 Globally, migraine affects around one in seven… Read more →

Discovery, Interrupted

It was the third and final week of my first dissertation research trip. I’d spent my first two weeks moving slowly through the collections at the University of Akron’s Cummings Center for the History of Psychology (CCHP). It was a joy to take my time getting to know the clinical psychologists who would feature in… Read more →

Feeling Grief: On Emotions in the Archive of Enslavement

In September, when an archivist at Fisk University asked me to help identify a ten-page manuscript from 1776 Saint-Domingue, my mind began to race. Saint-Domingue was the French Caribbean colony that became Haiti after a long revolution that lasted from 1791 until November 18, 1803. In the 1770s, the colony was in the throes of… Read more →