Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to procrastinate, archive edition

At the Library of Congress, I've been exceptionally productive (I'm in Philly airport now, heading down to North Carolina). The Antheil correspondence here is fascinating, doubly so for the comparisons of letters to a childhood friend and those to Mary Bok, who gave him money. Let's just say they don't always match up.

Yesterday I went to the National Archives 2 (I cannot avoid thinking about National Treasure 2 when I say or type this). Here's how you procrastinate there- it's very easy because they do it for you!
9:45 arrive, realize you'll miss the 10 am pulling of records, next pulling is at 11.
9:48 get through the metal detector.
9:50 get instructed to take a tutorial on the computers
9:51 realize that this is practically like reading the website, which, being the studious scholar you are, you have already done the night before.
9:55 still take that tutorial
10:00 go up, get told more info, get your picture taken
10:05 go put your things in a locker. This is hard but doable if you have a suitcase.
10:08 try to close the locker, fail. Fail repeatedly. Get your money back.
10:12 figure it out: there were two quarters blocking the mechanism. On the upside, you have 50 cents more!
10:15 go to with your computer to the entry desk, give them your card, have them ask you for a form you don't have
10:18 get said form
10:20 get through security
10: 25 register upstairs
10:30 wait for assistance
10:38 get a finding aid, proceed to start filling out forms
10:45 get told you did it wrong, fill them out again
10:50 get a new finding aid, get told to fill them out again
10:58 they come to collect for the 11 am pulling, ask the guy if everything is correct, get told yes.
10:59 turn them in phew!
10:59 get them returned with the comment that you neglected to fill in something
11:03 turn them in late, but the guy knows it wasn't really your fault and takes them back personally
11:09 discover there's no wireless; go eat a sandwich
11:13 discover checking out is more complicated than checking in, go upstairs to retrieve aforementioned form
11:19 check out, eat
11:35 check back in.
11:40 check to see if material is pulled; repeat every couple minutes until 11:58, when material is available.

After that, it's a lot like the LOC, except you get to take everything with you on a cart, and can make your own photocopies (after another complicated process I'm too hungry to get into).


  • Ouch! As an archivist, this is painful to read (even without having to have personally experienced it). For what it's worth, I just forwarded your post to my colleagues. Let it be a lesson to us! ;-)

    By Blogger ldfs, At July 22, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

  • Haha! Just found your blog via 2'2"...

    I'm a musicology grad student myself with a similar story, except that I was at the Bibliotheque nationale de France. As you can imagine, it was what you outlined times three (et en Fran├žais). Yikes!

    But totally worth it when you're holding that manuscript, right? mean gently turning the pages of that manuscript with gloves...

    By Blogger c.e.w., At September 9, 2009 at 2:21 AM  

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