Check Availability

Lots of radio silence. Lots of being unsure of quite what to say. Lots of trying to settle in to a new routine, to stretch intellectual muscles that were starting to fall out of use. Orchestrating days in the library, days in the archive, days at work, trying to find the time to go to seminars, and have a social life at the same time. Mind you, I was never under the illusion that this was going to be easy . . . indeed, told quite forcibly to the contrary. 

So now instead of grocery shopping or whatever I did on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays I’m now chained to a microfilm machine, wrangling spools of film between two sheets of glass so that I may have the privilege of deciphering 17th century handwriting on a lit-up screen. Because while everyone blathers on about open access (they’re not blathering, and I do want to come up with some sort of informed response that will likely end up here), there are still some archives where no amount of credentials will get you inside! And when you say “BUT BUT?!” they say “oh no, don’t worry, we’ve magnanimously put our entire archive on microfilm.” Yes. Thank you for not digitizing when the ability appeared. Because my fine-tuned knowledge of how to shimmy around a microfiche machine will do me SO MUCH GOOD in the future. But I should count myself lucky. There’s nothing worse than hunting down a primary source, going to the library, trying to request the item, and the dreaded signs flashing up on the screen in mocking red underlined text.

‘Check Availability’

Because it’s not bad enough that accidental fire, purposefully fire, accidental rips, purposefully rips, accidental re-use, PURPOSEFUL re-use, misplacement, and just the general ravages of TIME make a historians’ life difficult. Of course not. There’s the added bonus of bureaucracy, of the jealous guarding of bits of paper and illegible scratchings of ink. Of this is MINE, and we don’t need anyone else figuring out anything else about us, thank you very much. And it’s such an interesting thing to navigate . . . piecing together what you see with what you can’t see, for one reason or another. Figuring out what the missing bits mean. In a way, that’s where you get to play a bit (within the realm of logic, of course).

More thoughts to come . . . hopefully it will become a bit more cerebral. Who really knows.

probably more food, too.





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