Tag Archives: librarians

The Almost-End of Month Two

pc dibner bookThis second month in Washington has been focused on the collection at the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology.  It’s one of the smallest libraries in the Smithsonian system.  (I am guessing, but now I would like to know: what is the smallest one in this massive institution?)  As such, it has a staff of two, and during my month I have seen maybe a half-dozen other readers come and go.  The two people who run the joint happen to be super excellent specimens of humanity, which only embellishes what is already a great experience getting my hands on great little books (like the one you see above) as well as some pretty big folios and long runs of journals, all about building, engineering and that kind of stuff from the mid-nineteenth century.  Very cool stuff.

Tagged , , ,

When the Archivist says the Thing I Most Wanted To See Is Missing/Unavailable/Not On The Shelf/Apparently Lost to Me Forever

He was nice about it, very apologetic.  Took my contact info in case the Archives Fairy suddenly reveals where it is held.  But still.  UGH.

Tagged , , ,

End of Month 1

IMG_0186No one, I reckon, will ever say that the Manuscripts Reading Room of the Library of Congress is an inspiring place to work because of its physical environment.  It is a bare-bones 1960s kind of functionalism but really, that’s OK.  The big dome room in the Jefferson Building is pretty wowie-zowie, but here in Madison–described by one of my grad school profs as “the ugly one” to distinguish it from its two prettier Library of Congress siblings–it’s the papers that are the main event.  (Although I should also add, the super-helpful, smart & nice crew of librarian/archivists are a wonderful ornament to this boring room.)  I spent many days in January here, working on a little-known political operative named Benjamin Brown French.  Even if he is not a big deal in the wider world, he is really special to me and my project.  Handling forty years’ worth of his journals and letters was a real treat.  One day I was flanked by people working on original documents of Walt Whitman and Booker T. Washington.  That kind of moment will make even a well-seasoned archives diver take pause.

Tagged , , , , , ,