20 May 2012

Tales From the Stacks

So I've been promising y'all an archive tour for several weeks now, and Friday I finally got around to taking photos!

I spend two days a week puttering about the attic archives at the historical society in my hometown, a small town on Boston's South Shore. It is now a white-collar bedroom community for Boston commuters but was settled in the early 1630s as one of the southern outposts of the Massachusetts Bay colony; like everywhere around here, it's got a long history. However, we've been more assiduous/anal retentive than some in preserving and propogating it, so the historical society has a relatively strong collection of artifacts and documents, as well as a dedicated headquarters in a historic building right in the town square.


My world basically consists of the workroom above, where reference books are kept and there's table space for work and a computer that houses the archive's electronic catalog and accessions database, and the archive room itself, where all the fun stuff is kept:

I am currently inventorying and examining a (for us) large pamphlet collection that has been mouldering on the shelves for a while with no real categorization or curation (there's another full shelf above these two):

I am responsible for examining the pamphlets, entering them into a database, and then determining whether they're of interest to the historical society. Do they mention or refer to our town in some significant way?

Are they written by or about anyone from town?

Are they related to the historical society and its development?

Are they important in the overall context of American history, such that they can provide a context for our town-specific materials?

It's a whole new challenge for me, as I've spent a lot of my education working on British and medieval European history. Connecting up all the dots of the pre-twentieth century American picture--especially on such a local, non-Big Story Big Picture level--has been strange, but invigorating. I love doing this. Every Wednesday and Friday I wake up knowing I'm going to spend the day in the archives and I just get excited all over again.

So uh, that's my story, and happy weekend, folks! I hope you all do stuff that makes you this happy. And when it comes to the other thing that makes me excited, I'm making some progress too:

Check out that shell-of-Licorice! Everything's fitted properly, lining is cut and darted but not fully assembled. I am getting there, I am getting there. I am going to do this on time...


  1. That sounds like a fascinating job. I love archives and looking at old stuff in general. Your Licorice looks great too. I love the two different colours. Now I want to make a two colour dress.

    1. Yeah, I love working there so much--it's only two days a week/alternate weekends, and I really make my living officeworking the rest of the week, but it's great, and since my degree's in history I feel really lucky to be doing something that's related.

      As for the dress: I usually kind of think two-tone dresses are odd, because why not just make a top and skirt, but maybe I was wrong, because I really like how this one is turning out so far...

  2. What a terrifically interesting job. I'd relish the chance to do that kind of work. Preserving the past is one of my biggest passions, and I really, really enjoyed hearing about the work you do.

    Thank you very much for your comment on my antiques post yesterday, dear gal. Were you also a fan of Nancy Drew books as a youngster? Back in the day my mom had a hefty collection of those, but I don't recall her having any Cherry Ames (I think I discovered them at the local library).

    Wishing you a stellar Tuesday,
    ♥ Jessica