What I mean when I say, “I’m going to the archive.”

By Cory Haala

Introduced by James Marten

As I caught up with my high school friend Lindsey and her husband Austin last night, I casually mentioned that tomorrow I would “be headed back to the archive.” Lindsey stopped me and said, “I’m sorry, but you always say that, and I don’t know what the ‘archive’ is.”

I realized that I do that. A lot. So here’s a post generally explaining that (1) I’m still working on my PhD, and (2) what it is that I do when I say “I’m going to the archive!”

That’s the beginning of History PhD student Cory Haala’s essay on his current dissertation research. We’ve all been there—describing our work to an old friend, a family member, some other non-academic: yes, I’m still in school; no, the dissertation’s not done, and so on. I’m sure doctors and lawyers and plumbers and people working in virtually any other occupations have similar conversations. They try to explain what they do to people who have only a general idea about being a dentist, a piano tuner, or any other occupation. Cory articulates a process that is pretty basic to any scholar who does archival work, but is unfamiliar to anyone who hasn’t written anything longer than a college term paper. Along the way he describes his own research on modern politics in the Midwest.

Read the rest of Cory’s blog post—and a number of other posts about his journey through Midwestern archives—here: http://coryhaala.org/research/what-is-an-archive-graduate-student-research-collections-museums-archives/.

 Cory Haala has delivered papers at the Midwestern History Association Conference, the Great Lakes History Conference, the Midwest Labor and Working-Class History Conference, and the Northern Great Plains History Conference. In 2017 he received a $5000 Minnesota Historical Society Legacy Research Fellowship, for research in the Gale Family Library, as well as a $5000 grant to support his dissertation research from the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. 

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