Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ghosts of Research Trips Past

How times have changed. I think this post is going to be a little invitation to story hour, for those of us old fogies (okay, technically I'm a middle-aged fogy) who have been doing archival research for over a decade. This is a sort of remember-when kind of thing, and I can't promise that comments won't devolve into "those kids don't know how easy they've got it!" But that's not the point. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic (in neither a good nor bad way) for a time not so long ago (1998, I think?), and it started with seeing the following image:

I remember traveling to Blerg City with a stack of these. Which I exchanged for the local currency, which was not yet the Euro.

I remember spending my first three-month research trip making notes for documents I would order copies of... on microfilm.

I remember receiving that microfilm six months later, by mail.

I remember the switchover from the local currency to the Euro, and how prices for everything were marked in two different currencies so locals could start thinking in Euros.

I remember stepping into the street for the first time every trip and smelling that perfume of diesel fuel, hot asphalt, and cigarette smoke, and thinking how I was "home."


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I'll play! I discovered one of those things you have the picture of when I was cleaning up, took it to my bank (where I got them in the first place) to deposit, and the very young teller had to ask a supervisor if they accepted them. Of course they did, it was just that she'd never seen one before.

Laura said...

I remember, when on my JYA, having to go to the bank every 10 days or so to withdraw about US$70 (the maximum allowed) from my credit card because ATMs didn't exist in that country.

Also, placing a call home involved going to a phone bank, filling out a piece of paper, then waiting for the clerk to direct you to a booth where the person you were calling was waiting on the line.

Janice said...

I remember bringing letters of reference to various archives. Love ya, American Historical Association, for smoothing my way into British archives, great and small.

I would frequently go to the office of Express(ly) American services on a regular basis, both in Grad School City and in Research Cities, to receive funds transferred on by my patient stateside parent. The local staff would have to frequently put me on the phone with the head office to ensure that this, indeed, was the same person, now in a NEW place.

I still have all of my handwritten research files from my grad school days. Pads of lined paper, only more yellowed with age now, filled with transcriptions of documents and notes of which sources were where. I think I even have all sorts of call slips from the BL and the PRO in one folder!

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Meanwhile, I went to the Folger this summer and they wouldn't let me see the books I wanted to see, because they had scanned copies available online. Without Herculean effort, you can't see first folios in person. Having held one in my hands in 2008, I can say with certainty -- It's not the same online!!!!!

af said...

I remember placing an "order" for a phone call 24 hours in advance, sending a telegram to my parents so that they would know to expect it, then returning and going to a phone booth to get the call the next day. I think I made 3 10-minute calls to my parents that semester (plus another one when we were travelling and I could actually sit in my hotel room and talk to them - it seemed like such an amazing luxury, and I can still picture that hotel room).

It really does seem like the ancient world now.