Travel with us through the huge but deeply rewarding world of primary research using manuscript collections. You will find an argument for why quoting bible research papers collections are worth the time, as well as insider tips for navigating the foreign country we call the reading room. See how manuscripts collections enhance and deepen your research questions and how they can help you write history you’ll be proud of.
What do your emails reveal about who you are? If strangers read your diary, how would it help them understand the choices you make? What do the scraps of paper in your room know about you that your friends and family do not? What could a boxful of the stuff you keep crammed inside your closet tell someone writing the story of your life? Historians study the people of the past.
Because they have neither time machines nor E. Critical to this work are manuscripts. Manuscripts are the unpublished papers of an individual or an organization. Think of these collections as history’s own closet. Inside, you’ll find things that are one of a kind—the unpublished, unfiltered, and in some cases, still unfound.
Much of the material in manuscript collections comes from actual closets. Peeking inside, the historian crosses over the line between the public and the private. How do we go about finding a collection that can answer our research question? What people and groups were responsible for starting Earth Day and how did they collaborate?
Here are the five things we did to find manuscript collections useful to our research question. Archives sort personal papers under the names of individuals and organizations. In our early reading, the name of Senator Gaylord Nelson showed up often, so we searched for him. Which years are most relevant to our question? We know Earth Day happened in April of 1970, so we zero in on a window of 1968 to 1972.
They are professionals, trained in the art of hunting down manuscripts. We found the Nelson Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin. Nelson was a senator from Wisconsin. An archive tends to collect material that aligns with its affiliation.
So the papers of senators typically end up in their home-state archives and university professors’ papers can often be found where they did their teaching. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s helpful to keep in mind. There are lots of great directories, in print and online, that describe the contents of archives. Now that we have identified the Nelson Papers, we need to make our way to the collection. Here we present five tips to help make your visit efficient and rewarding. Pens, food, drinks, and personal items will not be allowed inside.