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Archive Assignments

Using Archives: Resources and Assignments

The following materials from SSAWW-L have been reposted here so that they are more widely available. If you don’t see your message, or if you’d like to add to this discussion, please send the materials to Donna Campbell at ssaww.web@gmail.com. Thanks.

See also other materials from SSAWW discussions.

Sarah Robbins

In response to your request for readings: Here are a couple of interesting discussions about interpreting materials from archival research.

Randall Bass, “Story and Archive in the Twenty First Century,” College English 61, no. 6 (1999): 663 ff.

“History and Memory: The Problem of the Archives” in the Publications of the Modern Languages Association of America, Vol 119/ no. 4, March 2004, pp. 296-298.

Frances Smith Foster:

As an example of folks’ first-time experiences exploring the fun and challenge of archival research, your students might want to take a look at some webpages created as part of an NEH grant I directed a few years ago—Keeping and Creating American Communities. The participants were K-12 teachers who came from a wide range of settings and who developed multiple projects around a cluster of themes. One small group, which included Deborah Mitchell, an elementary teacher who is an alum of Spelman College, and some high school history teachers, took on an archival study with the help of Taronda Spencer, Spelman’s marvelous archival librarian. Some of the writing these teachers found in issues of The Spelman Messenger is available here online:

http://kcac.kennesaw.edu/thematic_content/educating_for_citizenship/graduates.html

Your students might also enjoy reading Deborah Mitchell’s reflections on blending oral history with her work done in the archive at Spelman:

http://kcac.kennesaw.edu/thematic_content/educating_for_citizenship/oral.html

Deborah also wrote a synthesis report from her interviews and reading in the archive:

http://kcac.kennesaw.edu/thematic_content/educating_for_citizenship/leaders.html

There’s a conference this June at University of New England on archival research and women’s literature that might be very interesting for this topic. I suggest you check the web site or contact Jennifer Tuttle for information. And, Bondswoman’s Tale is an interesting choice — not only does the intro provide a wonderful recipe for verifying authenticity or discovered texts but the politics are particularly intriguing since the question of identity has not been solved — at least the last time I paid attention, no one knew for sure who wrote the manuscript (has proof of identity surfaced?) — and since the work was not published in the 19th century, the question of why the text has become canonized will provide a great opportunity for discussion.

Finally, one might want to consider the work of Xiomaria Santamaria on the Eliza Potter, the question of why the many spiritual autobiographies are rarely among the more popular rediscoveries and what Elizabeth Keckley’s narrative shows about the upstairs-downstairs kind of memoirs of which it was one of the first. Good luck Frances Smith Foster Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Women’s Studies

Eric Gardner

I agree that this looks like a great class–and join those who are hopeful that you’ll post a syllabus. To the already-excellent suggestions, I’d add these three gems, which I think anyone engaged in recovery work on early African American literature should read:

Foster, Frances Smith. “A Narrative of the Interesting Origins and (Somewhat) Surprising Development of African American Print Culture.” American Literary History 17 no. 4 (Winter 2005): 714-740. An essential article in more ways than I can count.

Gray, Janet. “Passing as Fact: Mollie E. Lambert and Mary Eliza (Perine) Tucker Lambert Meet as Racial Modernity Dawns.” Representations 64 (Autumn 1998): 41-75. In addition to the best discussion around of the conflation of the two Lamberts, this is one of the better considerations of the politics and structures of recovery work.

McHenry, Elizabeth. Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002. Every time I open this book, I still find myself saying “wow.” It also teaches very well. I’d also try to ensure conversation about why the literary texts named first vis-à-vis recovery efforts tend to be either novels or novelistic narratives–rather than poetry or letters, for example.

Barbara McCaskill

I list below a few secondary sources, either wholly or partially dedicated to your interest in scholarly recovery of texts, which I can recommend from my own research and teaching. Even though she is not associated with a single-authored or dictated narrative, Margaret Garner came to mind when I read your request and I have included a couple of related sources in case you and your students are interested in discussing how she has figured in these processes of historical recovery.

Fisch, Audrey A., ed. -The Cambridge Companion to the African American Slave Narrative-. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007.

Flynn, Katherine E. “A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity: Finding Emma Dunham (nee Kelley) Hawkins.” -National Genealogical Society Quarterly (94) 2006: 5-22.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., and Hollis Robbins, eds. -In Search of Hannah Crafts: Critical Essays on the Bondwoman’s Narrative-. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004.

Painter, Nell Irvin. -Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol-. New York: Norton, 1996. Painter, Nell Irvin. “Sojourner Truth in Life and Memory: Writing the Biography of an American Exotic.” Gender ad History 2 (Spring 1990): 3-16.

Reyes, Angelita. “Using History as Artifact to Situate -Beloved-’s Unknown Women.” In -Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Toni Morrison,- eds. Nellie Y. McKay and Kathryn Earle, 77-85. New York: MLA, 1997.

Weisenburger, Steven. -Modern Medea: A Family Story of Slavery and Child-Murder from the Old South.- New York: Hill and Wang, 1998.

White, Barbara A. “‘Our Nig’ and the “She-Devil’: New Information about Harriet Wilson and the ‘Bellmont’ Family.” -American Literature- 65 (March 1993): 19-52.

Yellin, Jean Fagan. -Harriet Jacobs: A Life.- New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004. Yellin, Jean Fagan, ed. -The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers-. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Pier Gabrielle Foreman

Hi DoVeanna:   I am loving the discussion you began here. In addition to the work that’s been mentioned, students like to also DO the work–and it gives them a real and concrete appreciation for the research we do. So I would only add some databases to the mix and say encourage students to do searches for themselves:

America’s Historical Newspapers,Accessible Archives, Ancestry.com (for census records and more), etc. If one reads, for example, Jean Fagan Yellin’s Harriet Jacobs, A Life with an eye toward methods–toward what sources she weaves together (and when and where she uses which and how and what challenges each type of source poses) and then have students run newspaper and census record searches themselves, my students, at least, really get the research bug. One added benefit is that some of the students who develop very sharp research skills are not those who are the best writers, for example. It gives them a sense of confidence that can be transformative. I figure you know all of this. . . .     A note on resources. If your school doesn’t have these databases, local libraries often have ancestry.com. And historical societies sometimes offer access to databases for a yearly membership fee–if your course includes substantive primary source and newspaper research, the cost approximates (more or less) the cost of a (text) book. Feel free to contact me off list.   Best,   Gabrielle

This is a great discussion, and I’m looking forward to seeing the syllabus. Just to tag on to Gabrielle’s excellent suggestion on accessing genealogical resources: If your school doesn’t subscribe to newspaper databases like America’s Historical Newspapers, etc., there are a surprising number of 19c newspapers and magazines scanned and on the web for free. I try to keep the list current on the Resource page of the Research Society for American Periodicals.http://home.earthlink.net/~ellengarvey/rsapresource1.html The interfaces vary widely, and you’d want to check any of them out yourself before sending students to any of them, since some can be discouragingly frustrating. But there’s some otherwise hard-to-find material there. — Ellen Ellen Gruber Garvey, Ph.D.

DoVeanna’s query and this discussion has inspired me to try to develop a similar topic for my senior thesis seminar next Spring – thanks to the folks on this list for such wonderful suggestions! I’m also looking forward to seeing DoVeanna’s syllabus. I’d also like to follow-up by asking if anyone has specific examples of research assignments they’ve given to undergrads using archives and databases. I found Gabrielle and Ellen’s ideas about having students do the work really exciting, and I’d love to have a better sense of how you guide students in this process. Any information – syllabi, assignments — would be appreciated. I will likely focus on both African American and white authors from the 19th/early 20th c. in my course. Thanks! Deb Gussman

Frances Smith Foster With an undergraduate seminar, I have phased in research skills…we begin with two invited guests (or maybe two students) “meeting” one another for the first time and trying to discover what they have in common. Then we work on oral interview techniques comparing a conversation with an interview. We practice Q&A skills by having a presentation by an outsider. Our librarians work with my syllabus to create a web site for the class and the class spends a period in the library learning to use the technology and databases. We then visit the archives – handle some materials related to our topic and be guided by one of the archivists. After that it’s fairly easy. Students are less afraid to go into the building, they know folks they can ask for help, they have worked on techniques of gaining primary information for human sources and they generally like it all.

Timothy Scherman

Here’s an assignment I’ve used for a few years now. They are at first daunted, but when they realize what sorts of resources are available now-even on-line-they quickly get very excited about doing it. Some of the products have been great.

ENGL 318N: American Women Writers of the Nineteenth CenturyProfessor Scherman

Research Paper Guidelines

Your research paper for this course will investigate a lesser known work by a woman writer of the nineteenth century, situating and explaining its form and content in terms of our discussions of the more well-known writers and works covered this term. Think of your final product as an “edition” of the literary work you decide to write about, and your paper as comparable in treatment (if not in length) to the introductions we have read in many of the texts we’ve discussed this term (Joyce Warren’s for Ruth Hall, for example).

Finding the Literature

As in almost every research paper you will ever write, finding your topic is perhaps the most crucial and difficult part of the assignment. Since the purpose of this assignment is for you to play the part of scholars working at the margins of the field—in the archive, or close to it—your task will be to find a work to write about that not many scholars have treated before. It may be effective to find a lesser known work by a writer who is known but not canonical (note: Oakes Smith’s short writings are numerous but no scholar has written about them). The question for many of you will be “how do I know whether a writer is too well-known?” While I would be happy to respond to your specific inquiries as you investigate possibilities, you should be able to discover the status of your writer and the work you find by carrying out some searches on our library databases—especially MLA Bibliography, JSTOR, and Wilson Select Plus. If you find one or two articles and a dissertation on your writer, and nothing on the specific story you’ve selected from that writer, that sounds about right.

As I remarked in class, one of the best resources for this assignment may be the Dictionary of Literary Biography series in our library’s reference section (yes, you have to actually walk over there!). There are two or three volumes on nineteenth-century American literature, as well as specific volumes dedicated to women writers. Each entry should provide you with biographical information on an American woman writer along with some brief comment on her most well-known works, but most important, at the beginning of each entry is a bibliography of the writer’s work. If you find a writer you like in the DLB, the job then becomes one of making sure not too many scholars have written about the story you select from the bibliography of their works, then finding the story or essay listed. While NEIU does not own most nineteenth century journals, you have plenty of time the first week of April (don’t wait!) to order a volume or reel of microfilm containing stories of interest through our circulation department’s interlibrary loan service.

There are plenty of other sources on the web that may lead you to interesting stories not yet very well known. The Research Society for American Periodicals (RSAP) website is particularly good (http://home.earthlink.net/~ellengarvey/index1.html ), with links to mainly periodicals available full-text on-line.

Generally, the work you choose should be relatively short, whether it is a short story, a “sketch,” or an essay on a topic relevant to our course. If you discover poetry, that’s fine, but in that case you should concentrate on several shorter works or one extended poem. Don’t try to write your paper on a single sonnet.

Finally, even as you begin this project, do not expect to find the story and the writer you want to focus on for your research paper right away. Patience will pay huge dividends. You do not want to choose the first story you read, then discover it’s really not something you’re very interested in. The WORST thing you could do would be to wait too late to begin this project and then be forced to write on “any old story” because you haven’t left yourself enough time to do the research.

After you’ve decided on a work to write about, your job will be to do enough research on the writer that you can introduce her to your reader in some detail. Obviously, details relevant to her career as a writer are what you’re looking for most—that is, her education, who encouraged her (or discouraged her) to write, her religious and social affiliations, her relations with publishers, etc.

Scope of the Project

Your research paper should read like an introduction to the work you have chosen. It should include the following information:

  • A brief biography of your writer, including the history of her writing career
  • A discussion of where the work you have chosen fits into her life and career
  • Some detailed discussion of the work itself—how it might relate to the works we’ve read in the course thus far, and what it reveals about American women’s experience in the nineteenth century.

Quotation and Citation

As with any research paper, I expect proper citation. Do not abuse the article you may find in the DLB, whether by quoting too extensively or by using the ideas you find there (or anywhere else) without properly citing your sources. In ALL CASES, any quotation you use from an outside source should be placed within a sentence of your own. All quotations should be “sandwiched”—that is, preceded by a sentence or phrase that makes it clear why you’re using the quotation, and followed by a sentence or more explaining its meaning or importance.

Matters of Form

What you hand in should be your introductory essay, a copy or typescript of your chosen work, and a properly formatted bibliography indicating all those works you have used in writing your paper. Please staple your paper together—no plastic covers please. Illustrations (for example, a photocopy or scan of the first page of the work in its original setting/context—as we saw on the Oakes Smith site for The Western Captive) are encouraged.

Papers should be handed in both on paper and via email in electronic format.

Theresa Gaul

Below is an assignment I’ve used this semester in an upper-level undergraduate course on nineteenth-century women’s novels. The results have been excellent. Students have researched dandies, steamboat fires, kittens, bonnets, women’s access to swimming, electricity, tea drinking, homeopathic medicine, governesses, asylums, the status of widows, property laws, brother-sister relationships, etc. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the papers! Now I’m thinking about the possibilities for incorporating this kind of assignment into more of my courses. By the way, I realize that I have great access to databases at my institution. But this assignment could also be carried about using the link Ellen Gruber Garvey recently sent out for nineteenth-century newspapers and magazines on the web listed on the Resource page of the Research Society for American Periodicals: http://home.earthlink.net/~ellengarvey/rsapresource1.html .

Those of you who will be at ALA in May may be interested to know that there is going to be a session on using archives in teaching: Teaching Early American Topics: Archives, Blogs, and Print Organized by the Society of Early Americanists Chair: Susan Imbarrato, Minnesota State University Moorhead

1. “Archival Research and Editing in the Early-American Classroom,” Theresa Strouth Gaul, Texas Christian University

2. “Print, Performance, and Pedagogy in the Digital Classroom,” Scott Ellis, Southern Connecticut State University

3. “Blogging the Early American Novel; Or, How a Research Project Taught Engagement, Intellectual Citizenship, and Real World Skills,” Lisa Logan, University of Central Florida

4. “Searching for Childhood: Using Early American Imprints to Teach the History of American Children’s Literature,” Karen Roggenkamp, Texas A&M University, Commerce

Also, thanks to those of you who replied to my question on the Mr. Bond’s “whir-whir” in Ruth Hall!

Theresa Gaul Dept. of English TCU Fort Worth, TX

This assignment requires you to explore nineteenth-century magazines, newspapers, and other writings through electronic databases in order to enrich your understanding of one of the novels we have read. There are many possibilities for this assignment, including: ·Search for usages of a key term, concept, or item that you come across repeatedly in a particular novel.How does what you learn about contemporary usage of this term or concept affect your interpretation of the novel?

· Find images in magazines, newspapers, or advertisements that relate to a novel. How do these images illuminate your interpretation of the novel?

· Search a newspaper database to find articles on a historical events or individuals referred to in a novel. How does reading those articles affect your interpretation of the novel?

Remember that your sources must all be from the nineteenth-century and that your ultimate goal is to make an argument about the novel that is enriched by what you have discovered. You will need to focus your attention on the scenes of the novel which engage most explicitly with your research topic.

You must submit a one-paragraph description of your topic, research, and projected argument, along with an annotated bibliography, one week before your due date. The paper resulting from your research should be 5-6 pp. in length. The paper should both describe the results of your research (2-3 pp.) and present a reading of the novel (2-3 pp.) based on what you have discovered.

I’m confident that you can come up with possibilities that I am not aware of, so be creative in your approach! Databases in our library North American Women’s Letters and Diaries America’s Historical Newspapers American Periodical Series HarpWeek Nineteenth-Century U.S. Newspapers New York Times (Historical)

You may also use Godey’s Lady’s Book Online at http://www.history.rochester.edu/godeys/

Jenny Putzi

Dear Deborah, I assign two research projects that might interest you. I’ve attached the assignment handouts here [in boxes, below] –anyone is welcome to borrow from or use them. The first is an archival project for my “Early American Literature” course, in which they have to locate, transcribe, and research an early American document from our Special Collections. The second project is a recovery project that I assign in my “Emily Dickinson and Nineteenth-Century American Women Poets” course. The students have to locate a nineteenth-century American woman poet who has not received a lot of critical attention, and do a recovery portfolio, in which they find out everything they can about the author and her work. For both projects, I train them in how to do archival research and use periodicals databases. I’ve done “research journals” for both of these projects, but will probably require a more formal writing assignment–a paper or a small edition of the poems, with introduction and footnotes–the next ti m! ! e I assign them. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Good luck! Best, Jenny Putzi

EMILY DICKINSON AND NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN WOMEN POETS

ENGL 414-02/WMST 390A-02

FINAL PROJECT: RECOVERY PROJECT PORTFOLIO

OVERVIEW OF PROJECT:

For your class project, each of you will complete your own recovery project, working first-hand with nineteenth-century periodicals and other primary and secondary texts. Using the primary texts available to us, you will identify a poet you would like to research and do preliminary work toward recovering this writer. The type of work you do will depend upon where you find this writer and whether or not she has been written about by scholars before. At the end of the semester, you will turn in a portfolio containing evidence of your research over the course of the semester as well as some combination of the following items: a research journal or research narrative documenting the process of your investigation; an annotated bibliography of secondary research on your poet; a Bennett-style introduction to the poet (complete with biographical information, a list of primary texts, recommendations for further reading, and selected poems); a longer essay in which you position your poet either stylistically or culturally; an explication of a particular poem by your writer; and/or some other written assignment that you and I will settle on together. I will meet with each of you to talk about the subject and progress of your research. After our conference, you will write a proposal in which you will sketch out the plan of your portfolio; once this proposal is approved by me, it will serve as a contract between us and I will use it to grade your final product.

CHOOSING A POET:

It is important that you choose someone who interests you, so I’d like you to spend some time on this step. There are several ways to go about selecting a poet for your project:

  • Use recent anthologies of American women’s poetry. Bennet, Janet Gray, and Nancy Walker are the three best anthologies of American women’s poetry to come out of the recent resurgence of interest in the field. You may choose an author from one of these texts, but it must be an author who has received relatively little critical attention (at least for her poetry). You must choose an author we have not covered in class. Bennett’s anthology might be especially useful in this regard because the second section includes individual poems by poets who are not represented in the first section of the book.
  • Use nineteenth-century anthologies of women’s poetry. Caroline May and Thomas Buchanan Read are in SWEM, so you can actually page through these collections. You can access Rufus Wilmot Griswold’s The Female Poets of America via GoogleBooks.
  • Use nineteenth-century texts—periodicals, books, and newspapers. You can find these in a number of places: the American Periodicals Series database (via Swem); the America’s Historical Newspapers database (via Swem); the American Poetry Full-Text database (via Swem); the American Verse Project website; and the Making of America website. Browse through the digitized selections on these sites and look for women authors. (The American Poetry database and the American Verse Project are particularly useful here because all they have is poetry.) NOTE: Even if you don’t use these resources to find your subject, you will want to return to them while doing your research.
  • Finally, a select few of you might want to look into doing original research in the William and Mary Special Collections. Talk to a Special Collections librarian about poetry collections and ask to look at the manuscripts. You never know what you might find!

RESEARCHING YOUR POET:

Once you find an author in whom you are interested, do a more aggressive search. For example, look her up in the American Periodicals Series database. How often was she published? What journals published her work (and what might that mean)? Try other databases and websites as well. Don’t forget to simply check the Swem library catalogue: we may have copies of her work. If we don’t and you’ve checked early enough, you may be able to interlibrary loan copies. If you can’t, GoogleBooks is the next best thing. You might also do a WorldCat search (available via Swem) to find out if any papers exist for this author anywhere in the United States.

Next you want to look into what kinds of scholarship have been done on this poet. The primary site for this kind of search is the Modern Languages Association, available through Swem. Also do a basic Google search. Find out if this author has received any kind of academic and/or popular attention; if so, spend some time with this work and think about what aspects of this author’s work have already been examined. (It is fine to choose an author who has already received attention; your project will just take a different shape from one focused on an entirely unrecovered writer.)

You may also want to spend some time thinking about the cultural/literary/political contexts in which this author wrote. For example, if your poet was an abolitionist, you may want to try to position her within that movement. If your poet was a woman of color, you will want to understand if/how this affected her career and her work.

Take notes as you work, as you’ll be unsure of what form your portfolio will take at this point. Also, make copies of anything that seems like it might be useful down the road. Keep track of where you’ve been! If you tackle this assignment correctly, you’ll be working on it for some time; you don’t want to going over the same ground later in the semester because you’ve forgotten to take notes.

CONFERENCES AND PROPOSALS:

You will meet with me in the beginning of November to discuss the poet you’ve chosen and to map out your research agenda and the contents of your portfolio. You may be torn between two poets at this point—this is fine, but you should know enough about both of them to present the pros and cons to me in a coherent manner. Don’t come in saying, “I haven’t really had time to work on this, but I’d like to work on an African American poet,” or something like that. I will send you away and ask you to come back with a name and some background research. We’ll also talk about the different items you can include in your portfolio and what might be best for you, given your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the profile of your poet. The more you know about your poet at this time, the better able you will be to make these kinds of decisions.

Your Proposal will be due a week later. Here you will tell me who you’re working on and why, and you’ll outline the shape of your portfolio. I will give you feedback on your proposal and we will continue to work on it until we’ve agreed upon a plan. This proposal is a commitment! Once it is settled, you would have to have a very good reason to change it without affecting your grade. In order to make changes to the portfolio, you must have a conference with me and rewrite your proposal in order to explain the change.

You should feel free to talk with me at any time about your recovery project, even after we’ve had our initial conference. I don’t expect you to complete this project without guidance.

RECOVERY PROJECT PORTFOLIO AND PRESENTATION:

Your Recovery Project Portfolio is due during Finals, on Friday, December 12 th, at 1:30. During the final week of the semester and during our finals period (1:30 to 4:30 on the 12 th), each of you will do a ten to fifteen-minute presentation on your recovery project. You must create a handout for your classmates that contains at least one poem by the writer you’ve chosen to research—you might think of this as a “signature” poem, one that you feel represents your poet well either stylistically or thematically or both. Your handout should include basic biographical information and anything else you think might be relevant. I know you can’t cover everything about your project in ten to fifteen minutes—a basic introduction is enough. Be organized and clear, however, and do not exceed your time limit.

GRADING:

Your Portfolio is worth 30% of your final grade, and the Presentation is worth 10%. That alone should tell you that this assignment is a big deal and can have a major impact on your grade. I am looking for the following:

  • Evidence of careful and thorough research, using a number of different kinds of appropriate sources.
  • Willingness to take direction and to try something with which you are unfamiliar.
  • Thoughtfulness, both in your choice of subject and your treatment of the materials.
  • Good writing, no matter what shape your portfolio takes.
  • A carefully organized portfolio that is easy to navigate.
English 361-01Fall 2008

Final Project: Special Collections Research Portfolio and Presentation

For your final project, you will complete a research portfolio and a presentation on a manuscript of your choice from SWEM Library’s Special Collections. You might select your manuscript because you are interested in a particular form or genre—the commonplace book, the travel journal, or poetry. Or you might be interested in the subject addressed in the manuscript—slavery, gardening, or female education. The Special Collections librarians and I can help you come up with the right manuscript for you.

The first step, of course, is to choose your manuscript. We will meet with the Special Collections librarian on Wednesday, October 29 th. Prior to this visit, it would be a good idea to browse the “Guide to Early American Resources in the Special Collections Research Center” (available as an “External Link” on our Blackboard site). During our visit, you will be allowed to browse through a collection of relevant manuscripts and you can return to the center later that week to revisit anything that interests you and make your final decisions. Next, you will write a presentation proposal, due on Monday, November 3rd. Your proposal can be fairly informal, but it must explain which manuscript you want to work with and why. You should also detail the kinds of research you might do for your presentation. Each of you will do different kinds of research, depending on the manuscript you choose. You may want to research the author him or herself, or the culture in which they lived. You may want to consider the manuscript itself, its form, its purpose. You may also want to think about the larger collection in which this manuscript appears. Finally, you should list at least three sources that you will consult in your research. This is just a starting point; you will, no doubt, work with many more sources, but for now, I just want to see that you have somewhere to go. Your presentation proposal should be at least one page, SINGLE spaced, and can be longer if you want to run more of your idea by me.

Your research portfolio (worth 20% of your final grade) will be the record of all of the research you do toward your presentation, and it will be due at the beginning of our finals period, at 1:30 on Monday, December 8th. It should consist of the following items: your presentation proposal, a transcription of your item(s), an informal research journal of at least ten pages, and a bibliography of the texts consulted in your research.

  • Your transcription of your item should be at least two pages single-spaced. The length of the transcription will vary according to which manuscript you choose; for example, if you are working on letters, you will want to transcribe an entire letter, if not more than one, even if it does go over two pages. Also, you will want to make your transcription look as much like the original as possible, so if your manuscript leaves space between entries or doodling, you will want to do so as well; of course, a page with a lot of space in it won’t count as an entire page of transcription. You’ll want to take things like this into account. I suggest that you bring a laptop with you to Special Collections and attempt to transcribe your document as soon as you choose the one you want to work with. Start with the things that are obvious to you; if you can’t read something, then take a [guess?], but make it clear that it is a guess. If it is just impossible to determine what a word is, then transcribe it as[unknown] or [illegible]. I’m looking for careful, conscientious work in your transcription. If Special Collections allows you, you should provide me with a photocopy of your manuscript pages; if they don’t, then make sure you give me the call number and an exact description so I can locate them.
  • Your research journal should be a record of the research you complete in preparation for your presentation. I suggest that you keep it as you go, although you are welcome to just keep research notes and write the journal as a single document. (If you do this, though, you should turn in your research notes as well.) The journal itself can be informal (you don’t need an introductory paragraph or a thesis or anything like that), but it should be well written and edited. In your journal, I want to see you documenting your research, but also reflecting on it. Use this space and your research to think critically about your manuscript, to position it within early American literature, culture, and history as you’ve come to know it over the course of this semester. Make sure you use your transcription here as well; do close readings, just as you’ve done for your papers and your discussion board posts. Always remember that you are working with an individual text as well as an author, a genre, a historical moment.
  • Your bibliography should be a list of every primary and secondary source you consult in the course of your research. You don’t have to have mentioned the source in our research journal; I’m trusting that if it is on your bibliography, you did, in fact, consult it. (Honor code!) You should keep track of everything you look at as you go; don’t assume that you will remember every source when you start to put your portfolio together. You want to be sure that you get credit for all of the hard work you do. Your bibliography should be in MLA format.

Your presentation (worth 10% of your final grade) will be done in the last week of the semester or during our finals period. (I’ll pass around a sign-up sheet before Thanksgiving break.) You will provide the class with a one-page handout on our Blackboard site containing at least one short excerpt from your transcription, as well as any other quotes, images, or ideas used in your presentation. You should focus on the highlights of your research here, on what you found most interesting. You won’t be able to present all of your research (your presentation is only ten minutes, after all), so you’ve got to be able to decide what is truly relevant to the course.

I encourage you to meet with me at any time during the course of your research. I don’t expect you to do this project without guidance and assistance. If you can’t make it to my office during office hours (MWF 11:00-12:00), then make an appointment to see me.

Katharine Rodier

Teaching with Primary Sources through the Library of Congress is a great program with an online component that might also be relevant here (and can offer some fellowship support as you develop your projects!): http://www.loc.gov/teachers/tps/. Thanks, Katharine Rodier

Pier Gabrielle Foreman

Hey Everyone:   What a rich discussion. I’m looking forward to the conferences and gatherings that will allow us to build on these in person. Do folks use regional sites? They often offer some treasures those of us can use even if we’re outside of that area. For example, the Wisconsin HS offers access to Freedom’s Journal (the first African American paper) and more. When working with Boston anti-slavery, women’s history or New England, I haven’t even begun to tap the depth of primary sources (state census records, city directories) etc. online. NEHGS, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, has all sorts of databases. And for $75 a year (less than a text book again) you can have access to national newspaper databases that allow you and your students to do all sorts of neat things even if your school does not subscribe.

Of course, historical societies often have all sorts of information especially in major cities (the CT HS is supposed to be quite good; Mass Historical Society is quite good).   The usgenweb.org site includes the “projects” below and more. All free. All run by volunteers so it’s a work in progress. This might allow students or a class to share any good primary documents they’ve found with others too. They’re geared at genealogists but are very useful to those of us accessing primary documents. (It helps to go to the projects page rather than the state pages on the left).

I’ll leave assignments to a different email but offer a link to anyone who might be interested to an “activism in the archive” class. I try to link the movements and campaigns we’re studying in the nineteenth century to contemporary movements.  Students can chose to either write an original research paper or take an additional two credit internship and frame their papers on contemporary campaigns through the analytical lens we’ve developed in class. Here goes.http://faculty.oxy.edu/gforeman/ecls341/description.htm   Take good care,   Gabrielle

The USGenWeb Archives Project – The USGenWeb Digital Library (Archives) was developed to present actual transcriptions of public domain records on the Internet. This huge undertaking is the cooperative effort of volunteers who either have electronically formatted files on census records, marriage bonds, wills, and other public documents, or are willing to transcribe this information to contribute. The coordinator of The USGenWeb Project Archives is Linda Lewis.

The USGenWeb African American Griots Project – The USGenWeb African American Griots Project is dedicated to assisting all of those in pursuit of their African American ancestry by being a central depository for African American records of historical proportion. The Project is coordinated by Charee Harvey and Jerry Taylor.

The USGW Digital Map Library – The USGenWeb digital map library is another outgrowth of The USGenWeb Archives. The United States Digital Map Library is a new project currently being developed by USGenWeb Archives. Our goal is to make available to genealogists, useful, readable, high quality maps. Here you will find both archival maps and newly made maps based on scholarly research. This project and all of its strictly volunteer staff are dedicated to free, online access for the general public. The coordinator for the USGW Digital Map Project is Deb Haines.

The Pension Project – The USGenWeb Archives is embarking on the USGenWeb Archives Pension Project. This project will endeavor to provide actual transcriptions of Pension related materials for all Wars prior to 1900. Transcripts, extracts and abstracts will be accepted and files will be placed in the USGenWeb Archives directory of the State and County of principal residence of the Pensioner. The coordinator for the Pension Project is Joan Renfrow.

Online Census Images Project Church Records Project The Church Records Project is a USGenWeb Archives project, first conceptualized in August of 1999, has become a reality in August of 2000 under the coordination of Kelly Mullins and Tina Vickery. Marriage Records Project Project Coordinator Mary Hudson and Assistant Patti Jepsen

Archives Newsletter Obituary Project The USGenWeb Archives Obituary Project was developed in April 2000. Newspapers have given permission to archive published obituaries to help researchers. RootsWeb has provided free access to the USGenWeb Archives since 1996, and like our volunteers, is dedicated to free online genealogy. Obituary Archives Project Coordinator – Katy Hestand, Asst. Obituary Project Coordinator – Linda Simpson.

eric gardner

I’ve been following this thread with interest and appreciate the useful and exciting suggestions folks have posted.  I want to add a bit for those for whom research libraries (much less, archives) are out of reach.  (I’m, for example, a two-hour drive from the nearest library with much of a collection of either primary or secondary sources re: nineteenth-century American and African American lit.)

In addition to wonderful free resources (Ellen’s RSAP work, Bill Andrews’s efforts with “Documenting the American South,” the Whitman Archive online, etc.), a few low-cost strategies to bring the “archive” to your campus:

*The Library of Congress’s Photoduplication unit will reproduce rolls of microfilm in their newspaper collection for a comparatively small fee.  I purchased, for example, the full extant run of the San Francisco Elevator–two rolls of film–for about $175, and my students have been fascinated to see original page images. *My sense is that some other vendors can be similarly reasonable.  After I talked in depth with our library staff (and always, always talk to your librarians, as they can be of great aid), my library purchased–again, fairly cheaply–the run of the Christian Recorder that contains the Curse of Caste and the run of Frederick Douglass’s Paper that contains the serialization of Bleak House.  (I haven’t been able to coax an on-going institutional subscription to Accessible Archives and get such online . . . yet.)  Students have written fascinating close readings of these novels that consider specific possible acts of reading in these settings through looking at the periodical contents that surround the novels.

*The SHARP website has several useful materials re: considering physical books.  Gathering a small collection of old books can give a good basis for bringing such into the classroom; careful work with places like eBay and abebooks–and good old hunting–can still yield reasonably-priced gems.  I have a later (but still 1890s) edition of Dickinson’s poems, for example, that has led students to questions about editing practices, texts’ locations in broader culture and time (Dickinson as a poet for the 1890s, for example), and book design. And then there’s this falling-apart copy of an 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass that conveniently has the signature containing some of the raciest poems removed and always starts lively discussion. . . .

*Sometimes asking students to think about *possible* archives can open interesting discussion–as when a student asked me how much the opening bid on the manuscript of the Bondwoman’s Narrative was, which led to interesting discussion of the auction catalog entry as an artifact and then of the politics and locations of recovery. Finally, I think–before, during, and after such work–it is important to engage students in questioning what it takes to make an archive (resources, social position, a kind of canonicity, etc.) and who “gets” archival space and why. All best, Eric


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