Have you ever wondered what historical records look like in the real world? Where they sit before they get in the hands of archivists and researchers? Or how we move those records from their creators to the archives?
My latest article “Archiving Danville” was published in Contingent Magazine earlier this week and offers a glimpse into my job as an acquisitions archivist and an exciting records discovery I made this past summer. I was reviewing records at Danville State Hospital, a mental institution in central Pennsylvania, and happened across a trove of historical documents that had been sitting behind locked cabinet doors for decades, unknown to historians and unavailable for research. I spent a long, hot summer day going through records dating back to the 1860s and we ended up with over 20 large boxes of material that has been brought back to the State Archives.
I think its a really exciting story and I hope you’ll enjoy coming on this archival adventure with me. Finding exciting records like this and making them accessible for research is the best part of my job and I’m really lucky to have these opportunities. As an acquisitions archivist, I usually help collect records that are fairly recent (created in the past 50ish years). It’s really rare for large troves of records from the 19th century to still be out in the field like this.
Contingent Magazine is a fantastic new non-profit magazine and its goal is to publish historical writing from folks who are working outside the typical university tenure-track positions that we usually see. As an archivist, its a challenge for me to get my research published in historical journals since I don’t have a PhD or a long history of publications. I’m really glad Contingent gave me this opportunity to write. I highly recommend checking out their website and donating if you’re able.