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

Boston Tips: Weekends In and Around Boston

Boats and islands in the Boston Harbor (2007).

Boats and islands in the Boston Harbor (2007).

We know you all have ambitious research goals for your three weeks in Boston, but it’s important to remember that regular breaks from your work will make you a better researcher! That’s part of the reason the BSS team haven’t scheduled any seminar activities for the weekends you’ll be here in the city. Below are a few suggestions for places and events in Boston and beyond that offer a change of pace from the archives. Continue reading

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

John Singer Sargent, Chiron and Achilles, 1922-1925, MFA Boston

For a city of 645,000 residents, Boston has a remarkably rich collection of cultural institutions, many of which you’ll want to visit.  I remember when I first started coming to Boston to do research, I’d go to one or two museums during my summer, but I’d go several times to get a strong feeling for the place. But that’s me – I like to sink into places.  To give some highlights, I’ve gathered a short list in no particular order.  Of course, it’s incomplete – there’s so much to see and do here, but here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), located on the Fenway, is not to be missed. Right now there’s a wonderful show open through August about the great Japanese master, Hokusai.  The MFA has the largest collection of Japanese art anywhere outside of Japan, collected by a small group of enterprising Bostonians besotted with that country’s art and culture just as it was opening to the West.  Check out the MFA also for its collection of ancient art (I love the room on Homeric art) and its dazzling collection of American art.
  2. Next door to the MFA is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, an Italian palazzo first opened in 1903 by its eponymous founder.  All the art you see was collected by Mrs. Gardner on her many travels around the world.  She also stipulated in her will that no part of the collection could be moved, so visitors now see the art in the arrangements she intended.  Spending time in the inner courtyard, lush and cool in the summers, is worth the price of admission, and the restaurant lunches at Café G are very tasty.
  3. The three main museums at Harvard University (the Sackler, Fogg, and Busch-Reisinger) are now called the Harvard Art Museums, newly reopened after a six-year redesign by the brilliant Italian architect, Renzo Piano.  The museums are right near Harvard Square and the Harvard T stop, in case you want a bit of museum-going to go with your lunch and shopping.
  4. The Boston Athenaeum, which is located at the top of the Common near the State House, is not so much a museum as a library with a fascinating history.  Opened in 1807, it is one of the oldest extant membership libraries in the country, but its first floor and galleries are open to the public.
  5. Right next door to the Athenaeum is the Boston-campus of the Museum of African American History, which provides a free walking tour of a large collection of historic sites relating to African American life in the city prior Emancipation.  Not to be missed.
  6. There’s more remarkable art to see in the Boston Public Library (open to all visitors), especially John Singer Sargent’s sumptuous murals on the third floor.
  7. On Copley Square facing the BPL is the masterwork of American architect, H.H. Richardson:  Trinity Church.  It was recently voted one of the top ten most important buildings in America.  Enough said.
  8. Finally, Boston has a rich political history, going back to the Revolution and through the Civil War.  In the 20th century, the Kennedy name was dominant, and there are now two fascinating Kennedy museums to explore:  the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum and the newly opened Edward M. Kennedy Institute next door on Columbia Point, near to the UMASS Boston campus.  You can’t go wrong going to both on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a wind off the bay.  They also host fascinating speakers/special events, so check out their calendars for June.

Other places/things to do:  stroll through the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, where Emerson and Thoreau could be seen walking; take a swim in Walden Pond near Concord, a short train trip away; go see the Boston Red Sox play in Fenway Park; and, of course, there’s much, much more.

~Natalie Dykstra

Late Breaking! 2015 Partner Institutions: Houghton Library

Houghton Library

Houghton Library

Houghton Library is the primary repository for rare books and manuscripts at Harvard  Houghton Library.University.

The Library holds collections of papers of Samuel Johnson, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May Alcott, along with the papers of other notable transcendentalists, Henry James, William James, Theodore Roosevelt, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings,  James Joyce, Gore Vidal, John Updike and many others.

It is comprised of five major curatorial departments: Early Books and Manuscripts, which includes a large collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and over 2,500 incunabula; Early Modern Books and Manuscripts, featuring the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson; Modern Books and Manuscripts; Printing & Graphic Arts which documents the history and art of book production; and The Harvard Theatre Collection covering the history of the performing arts.

~Irina Klyagin is a processing archivist at the Harvard Theatre Collection at the Houghton Library and scholar of Russian theatre and dance.

We Have Our 2015 Teams!

100_3584We are delighted to announce our faculty/student teams for the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar 2015.  (Please note:  A final list of student participants will be announced May 3.)

  • College of Wooster
    • Kabria Baumgartner, Assistant Professor of History, and student Jared Berg
    • Project title:  “Presence and Absence:  Women and Education in Nineteenth-Century America”
  • Hope College
    • Julia Randel, Associate Professor and Chairperson, Department of Music, and student Hannah Jacobsma
    • Project Title:  “19th Century Ballet and Its Legacy”
  • Kenyon College
    • Patrick Bottiger, Assistant Professor of History, and student Claire Berman
    • Project Title:  “Agri-Culture:  Tracing Cultural Convergence through Food”

Many thanks to our applicants!  We look forward to fascinating conversations in Boston in June!