The Allure of the Archives
Arlette Farge, Director of Research in Modern History at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, has written a wonderful little book about doing research in archives.
“Contact with the archives begins with simple tasks, one of which is handling the documents. Combing through the archives—a beautifully evocative term—requires a host of tasks, and no matter how complex the planned intellectual investigation will be, they cannot be bypassed. They are both familiar and simple, and they purify one’s thoughts, temper the spirit of sophistication, and sharpen one’s curiosity. These tasks are performed without haste, and necessarily so. One cannot overstate how slow work in the archives is, and how this slowness of hands and thought can be the source of creativity. But more than inspirational, it is inescapable. The consultation of these bundles, one after another, is never finished. No matter how carefully you prepare beforehand, sampling documents and putting together research guides in an effort to limit the number of texts you will have to consult, your patience will inevitably be tested.”
Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.
Image: Archivist Matt Law reviews Chinese Exclusion Act Files.; Location: National Archives at Riverside, Perris, CA; Photographer: Joseph S. Peñaranda