Day 2: First Day Actually Researching

After begging and pleading, first thing this morning, with management about letting me keep my room despite the overbooking situation (a plea that was successful!), I headed off to the Tamiment for some good old fashioned archival research. To my rhetorician friends: if you haven’t done a project that requires you to get dirty in an archive, and to physically handle old documents that few even know exist, then you’re really missing out! I knew, in doing prior research, that the Young Lords flyered a lot, made numerous pamphlets, etc. Those kinds of things don’t survive, or so I thought. 

The archive proved me wrong. Boxes and files of cool stuff awaited me today. Sure, I’d seen a lot of it before in one form or another. The newspapers, for example, I already have in digitized form and have photographed some of the covers and artwork from a private collection; but that didn’t stop me from taking new pictures under better lighting for presentations and reference. The flyers, pamphlets, and other ephemera, on the other hand, were a total treat — as were some of the photos in the collection. Here’s a little sampling of stuff before I talk process.

A Favorite Back Cover (not new to my digital archive, but better quality)
Back Cover

A Press Conference
Press Conference

A Flyer on Health, a Key Issue for the YLO/YLP
Health Care

Coalitional Politics
Coalition Flyer

Handling Other Photos
Handling Photographs

So today was my first day using the iPad in “the field.” The first advantage was weight. While I was also carrying my Canon T1i fitted with a 24-70 f/2.8L lens (seriously, it’s known professionally as “the brick”), having only the weight of the iPad rather than my laptop was a delight as I walked around the City. Losing 5lbs on your shoulder may not seem like a lot, but I assure you that it is.

The second advantage was convenience. Table space in archives is limited, which means that computer and writing space is also limited. The nice thing about the iPad was that it takes up minimal space and is easy to move around and get out of the way. Constantly moving around a laptop isn’t such a joy.

The third advantage was battery life. I used that iPad all dang day and I still had 80% of the battery left. I’m not so sure I would have been so lucky with my MacBook. At the very least, I would have been worried about the MacBook running out.

The fourth advantage of the iPad was convenience/ease of use. I used the app Notability (which I mentioned in an earlier post/review) because it has hierarchical folder structure (it calls them “subjects”) that allows me to keep all my notes for a particular archive in one place while creating separate documents for each box and/or physical folder of materials. In the past, I’d either use one word document or a legal pad, both of which cause organizational problems. Having everything neatly sorted and accessible is definitely a blessing. So as I went through a box/folder, I’d take notes on the contents, record the image number from my camera for any pictures I took, and even take some photos with the iPad to include in those notes. As far as I’m concerned, Notability on the iPad is a MUST for any researcher tackling archival work with the productive aid of technology.

Anyway, I’m still learning new things and trying to refine my process, so stay tuned for a detailed process-oriented blog entry once I’m done here. For now, let me say this: I am incredibly happy I got the iPad for this trip and strongly recommend that anyone planning archival research consider doing the same.

After returning to my hotel, I did some more research online with aid of my trusty jailbroken iPhone (this could be a blog post of its own — it is a MUST if you’re traveling for research), grabbed some Chinese food from a local joint, and started processing the images I captured today … all while finally watching Machete. Now that it’s past midnight, though, I should probably turn in and call it a day.

More of the same archive planned for tomorrow and probably Friday as I’m tracking down unforeseen leads in other random newspaper collections.

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