A week has gone by since our celebration evening at the conclusion of the first GLCA Boston Summer Seminar. Our research teams from Hope College, College of Wooster, and Kenyon College are now our first group of alumni, class of 2015. Starting later in July, we’ll be posting guest blogs from our alumni about their discoveries in the archives and their experiences in Boston. Stay tuned!
Our teams arrived in cold and rainy weather, but got right to work, and the skies soon cleared. The Hope team conducted research on 19th and 20th century ballet history in the Theater Collection at Harvard University’s Houghton Library, while the Kenyon and Wooster teams investigated antebellum food history and race and gender in the history of education at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), our host for the seminar. We gathered every Tuesday and Thursday evening around a large table at the MHS for a light supper and to hear a wide range of speakers: biographers, historians, a social media expert, and the director of economic policy in the Boston Mayor’s office. We talked to each other about what had been found in the archives, and with each successive day and conversation, the research projects got more complex, nuanced, surprising. I have a favorite line, written by Arlette Farge in her Allure of the Archives, about what can be found in the archives and how those documents can make the past seem close: “The archival document is a tear in the fabric of time, an unplanned glimpse offered into an unexpected event.” During our evening conversations, we heard about some of those unplanned glimpses.
The happy faces in the photograph above give a sense of the feeling in the group – glad to have a chance to do this sort of work and glad to be doing this sort of work together in Boston.
Putting together a seminar like this requires the enthusiasm and diligence of many people. Thank you to our host, the MHS, and to our seminar archivist, Anna Clutterbuck-Cook. Thank you to our partnering archivists and institutions: Giordana Mecagni at Northeastern University Archives; Irina Klyagin at the Houghton Library; Sarah Hutcheon at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Harvard University; and Kathryn Hammond Baker at the Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Harvard Medical School. I want to extend a special thanks to my planning team – Anna Clutterbuck-Cook and Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, our webmaster. I first had the idea of opening a door for Midwestern researchers to explore archives in Boston in the fall of 2013, and Greg Wegner at the GLCA, our generous sponsor, was supportive from the start, as were my colleagues at Hope College. Thanks most of all to our fabulous, hard-working, fun-loving research teams: Julia Randel, Hannah Jacobsma, Genevieve Janvrin from Hope College; Kabria Baumgartner, Jared Berg, Katie Walker from the College of Wooster; and Patrick Bottiger, Sam Gillespie, and Claire Berman from Kenyon College.
Oh, and June 2016 will be here before we know it.
~Natalie Dykstra, BSS Director