Tourism for Weirdos: Archival Adventures


If you’re having book problems, I feel bad for you son…

Hi!  I feel like I haven’t posted in FOREVER!  How are you?  Have you lost weight?  What’s gonna be your song of the summer?  I don’t even know, because I’ve been trapped in the archive since March!

If you follow me on instagram or FB, you’ve probably seen me snapping loads of pictures from various places, but I’m here to spill the tea on archive living!

Unlike my poor friends who study in Europe, getting into an American archive is pretty easy.  You tell them what you’re researching and they have you fill out a few forms, give you a card, and BINGO, you’re in!  My trip started in New York, where I never seem to dress appropriately for the weather, and always end up sick.  I was there on and off for 3 weeks worth of research.

New York was great, and almost everyone was lovely and super helpful except for the Frick.  What’s your deal?  Don’t believe them when they tell you that you don’t need to reserve materials because no one ever uses them.  That is a straight up fib.  But you know what? The Historical Society and the Public Library people were a delight!  I wonder if they get many visitors?


Another thing that’s good to know, especially as I spent weeks in front of the machines at BUT and the BPL was that microfilm technology has really improved!  It’s all digital and you can just email info to yourself!  REMARKABLE!  Now someone just needs to invent a search function that can decipher handwriting.

Washington DC was another great place to do research and I spent a week there.  You feel so important walking into the Library of Congress!  And the process to get a library card is hard core!  Yet, I didn’t get to go to the cool library.  All of my stuff was in the “new library” that looks like a high school media center.  We can’t win them all, I suppose.

For the month of June, I will be spending my time at the American Antiquarian Society in scenic Worcester, MA!  I’ve worked here before, and everyone is really nice, so I’m looking forward to it.  Best part: they’re paying me for the month!  It’s a mid-summer miracle!

So…my advice for archival living:

  1. Bring a sweater.  You will freeze after about 30 minutes.
  2. Tell people what you’re working on!  So many people dug up random things for me because they thought it would be helpful and most of the time it was!
  3. Always email in advance and tell them what you’re looking for.  Be nicely insistent that they pull it for you.
  4. Keep a snack in your bag.  Museums have restaurants and that french fry smell is intoxicating when all you’re trying to do is read about a Christmas celebration at an artists’ club.

With these handy tips, you’ll be living like a grad student (taking the bus, crashing on couches, looking annoyed at the tourists who won’t get out of your way so you can work) in no time!

About artdorkgirl

Amanda is working on her PhD at Boston University, where she is educating herself out of any useful career. She enjoys art, cats, and arguing about historical figures.
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10 Responses to Tourism for Weirdos: Archival Adventures

  1. Sergeant Tibbs says:

    This is my dream life (maybe minus the official research, just because I expect to have someone bankrolling my library dreams). I like how many library cards you own. My cousin and I always joke that the first thing we do upon moving is not, like, go to target for garbage bags but go to the library and grab a new card.

    Also, do you have an awesome library alias or is Telesia your real name? That is amazing!

  2. Sota says:

    What the frick, Frick!

    What are you studying/researching? You don’t have to tell specifics, but I am curious!

    • artdorkgirl says:

      So my project is on 19th century american artist and engraver Alfred Jones and the way images created for a mass audience sway/inform public opinion. So, in the course of rebuilding his biography, I’m also looking at the career path for his group of artists, and the way his images, which were printed on currency, gave people the belief that their money was solid and worth the denomination on the bill (not always a given in 19th century America).

      • Sota says:

        That is very cool! I am jealous a little bit. I love libraries and museums and its my dream to get a museum job someday…unfortunately there are a lot of other really brilliant and educated people who get the gigs before me. Oh well. I will stick with museum tour volunteering for the time being I suppose.

        • artdorkgirl says:

          There are a lot of roles in a museum that don’t require an advanced degree though! A lot of education positions only require a BA, as do a lot of the development and rights and reproduction offices! So I’m just saying, YOU NEVER KNOW!!!

  3. Martinmegs says:

    This is great! Books and adventure, what’s not to love?

  4. hotspur says:

    “For the month of June, I will be spending my time at the American Antiquarian Society in scenic Worcester, MA” sounds like the opening line of a Cthulhu tale. Be careful, artdork. Don’t awaken ancient evils and whatnot.

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