To our GLCA BSS2015 researchers – WELCOME to Boston!

“The Brook at Medfield,” Dennis Miller Bunker (1889).

We are excited to welcome our research teams to the inaugural Boston Summer Seminar.  We’ll be gathering for orientation at the Massachusetts Historical Society on Monday, June 1.  Food and coffee will be available at 9am.  We have three research teams coming from three GLCA colleges:  Hope, Kenyon, and Wooster.  We also welcome our archivists from five participating institutions, who will join us for conversation at our twice-weekly seminar evenings.  Our line-up of seminar speakers is truly inspiring – we’ll be recording their talks and posting them on our website.  We also plan to live tweet from our evening events.  So stayed tuned!

A few thoughts before our work commences.  We recently retweeted this quote by the historian Shelby Foote: “When you’re working very hard you’re not lonely; you are the whole damn world.”  So true.  One of the delights of research and writing is a feeling of entering another world.  Your imagination brims with characters, overhead conversations, incidents, places, and colorful details.  Time at your desk seems to fly by.

And yet it’s also true that much of our work is solitary.  Doing primary source research takes patience and time – a lot of time.  And the payoffs are often delayed until later.  Sometimes a sense of connection to others can seem remote.  I remember my first summer doing research at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  I’d received a summer fellowship to examine the 1880s photographs of Clover Adams, who became the subject of my first book.  I remember not knowing what to wear each morning.  I knew what to wear to class and to teach, but what to wear to the archive?  (As it turns out, archives are fairly casual.  We do encourage wearing layers for cool reading rooms, however.  (And Anna Clutterbuck-Cook requests that no one dry socks on top of the microfilm machine, as one patron did after a rainy morning.)  I also remember the deep pleasure of doing my solitary work side-by-side with others doing their work, then meeting up for lunch or coffee to talk about what we’d discovered.  I wasn’t alone in what I was doing.  Come to think of it, I suppose the vivid feeling of relief in not being alone in my work is part of what inspired the seminar.

And so, at the Boston Summer Seminar we’ll be doing our work together.  I know I speak for my planning team when I say:  we can’t wait to get started!

~Natalie Dykstra

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