Archival Research Assignment

Part I: In the Archives (approx. 5 hrs)

The class will be broken into two groups.  Three students will work with the Mitch Snyder collection at the George Washington University department of special collections.  And six students will work in the Washingtoniana collection at the DCPL.  Students will coordinate with each other to ensure that you are covering different materials and working towards developing a research base that will aid us as we produce our final project.  For example, at GWU students may choose to focus in on different boxes and folders.  You may decide that we need to review additional collections at that archives and divide your work that way.  Students at the DCPL could have one working with maps and oral histories, two working with reports and planning documents, one working in the City Directories, another looking at the photograph collection and select manuscript collections, and another focusing on the vertical files.  Some of the tasks may be dead ends and others could be extraordinarily rich and need more help.  What ever the division of labor is, it should be revised through continual communication.

Bring a laptop, notepad, and a camera on your trips to the archives.  You will need to browse fairly quickly, take notes of what you are finding, and indicate precisely where you are finding your materials so that we can quickly locate them again of need be.  For really rich materials, photograph them.  Make sure that you focus clearly and that the lighting is as good as you can get it under the circumstances.  If the flash creates a glare, turn it off and hold the camera very steady.  You can then review these materials more carefully at home if need be, present them to the class, and potentially use them for the final project.

Part II: Processing (approx. 5 hrs.)

As soon as you get home process the photographs by renaming them and placing them into folders.  The names should include a date followed by an underscore and then a descriptive name.  The date should be year_month_day of when the original was produced (if the month and day are not known they can be left off).  So a photograph taken on August 3, 1973 of a homeless family could be:  1973_8_3_homelessfamily.jpg

Keep the description very concise – under 20 characters if possible.  The folders should be organized in a similar manner to how you found the materials.  To the extent possible, it should attempt to mirror the structure of the collection the photographed source comes from.  You may find some of the photographs are of too poor quality to be useful or that they are irrelevant.  These can be deleted and should not be included in your collection.

Once they are organized and renamed, review your photographs and take further notes.  In those notes, clearly indicate the new file name as well as the precise location of the original document.  Summarize any information that could potentially be used in our project.  When you find colorful or very rich quotes that might be useful for our project, be sure to transcribe them carefully.  You should also revise and polish the notes you took in the archives.   Your notes should be well organized, easily navigable, and should offer a clear path to the original source.  They can be combined into one word document.

Submit the photographs, research notes, and a log of how you spent your time to Dr. Kerr upon completion of the project.  The notes should be posted on the class Zotero library.  If possible, the photographs should be uploaded in a zipped folder to Blackboard.  If not, they can be burned to CD, turned in on a USB key, or transferred by Dropbox.

Date Due: April 4th


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