Alone in the Archives II

30 05 2010

Not quite ALL alone today. Techguy is here and is expecting Techgirl at any moment.

But to the picture … Anyone remember playing Myst back in the day when it was cutting edge gaming? Remember that empty wind sound that was the musical score of the WHOLE game that made you feel so damn alone? Yeah, that’s what it sounds like here today. And yes, I feel pretty damn alone.

My goal today is to peruse my accumulated transcriptions and the xeroxes my super provided me with and start writing, hopefully tonight but tomorrow at the latest. I also decided yesterday that I’m going to discuss focusing my sample on one particular and common–no. I’ve changed my mind. I just realized that the particular type of occupational accidental death I was going to focus on perpetuates a class, age and occupational difference which would single out inventories of the young, inexperienced workers who do particular tasks. I should focus on disease since it knows class less (though cleanliness and age are still obviously factors here).

Great. Now I have to go pull another data sheet and redo my samples. Gripemoan.

Anyway, I never beat Myst without the help of a walkthrough guide but then again, I was quite young when it came out and it was probably pretty significant that I even played it. I was always really intrigued by the story and the beautiful scenery, which have been the main factors of my gaming selections ever since (Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus). I think it was one of the first game I ever played with multiple endings and I was impressed by the idea that you could be trapped in books. Trapped by knowledge: swallowed by things that usually are the tools of man. Ironic.

Well, I better get some work done.

UPDATE: I just had the best discussion about Jane Austen with Techguy. This has made my life, especially since I brought up Austen movies with PCW and was indigently rebuffed as though How dare I think ze has watched such drivel!

Jane Austen for the WIN.


x.x Dead Guy Watch x.x

One of the men whose inventory I currently am transcribing owned A History of England. That’s the best thing ever.

Alone in the Archives

29 05 2010

All. Alone.

Guess how went to work instead of having fun? Meeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Working away at transcriptions, which is pretty dull. I like material culture and consumption history but these inventories are just … well, they are lists. I guess I like better know how people felt about their clothes, what they thought about when they put them on, what they read in the clothing choices of others… I’m not really concerned with how many.

But I’m just sayin’, not complaining. Alright, that might have been a complaint, but I’m not getting ready to mutiny or anything. I’m just pointing out that I’m really not that into the original economic lean which consumption history had before the cultural historians got their hands on it.

x.x Dead Guy Watch x.x

Generally, though, I get no context to the clothing. Usually what I get is this:

List of effects 1 black Coat 1 [work] coat 1 pair canvas Pants 1 pair Drawers 1 Under Flannel 1 Waist Coat 2 Neck Ties 1 Bag 1 [work item] 1 Miniature [Signed by Supervisor]

Not a lot of stuff, really. And besides the black coat and the under flannel, I have no way of knowing what fabrics or colours anything was. Maybe this guy splurged on a paisley necktie. Where his drawers linen or cotton? And at first I though the “miniature” might be a statuette but now I think it might be a painting. Who’s to know? What is it of? A mother, daughter, lover?

Really, though, I should stop wondering too much because it’s just going to make this whole process more painful.

Back to the ol’ drawing board I guess…

Still “Editing”

18 05 2010

Yep yep yep … guess what I’m doing? What’s that? Editing? Are you ca-razy? It’s quite obvious that I’m currently writing this blog entry which can only mean one thing …

Procrastination for the NATION!

But I really need to get this done. Today the great annoyance has been trying to find a citation for an image which was sent to me by the son of the artist. A scan of what I think is an original was sent to me and I have no idea how to deal with it. Anyway, I’ve had no reply from the son about permission so I’ll have to call him tomorrow, which is exciting! He’s nice and excited about my work. Also he might be visiting us here in Colour City, which is a fun thought now, but I’ll probably not be quite as delighted when I have to do research for a walking tour of the city.


So, I’m doing research into dead guys (have I said this before?) and I’m using bureaucratic documents to find inventories of their stuff and today on my hunt I found only one inventory. BUT what I did find was a whole bunch of living guys with “desease vererial” and I think I might have discerned the word “Clap” in one of the entries. Which is awesome. It is not uncommon to find these records as these men where fined for venereal disease as it was considered preventable , but these are the first I’ve come across. I also keep running across mistakes in the database I am using to find these documents, but today was especially funny because I pulled a fellow who supposedly died an accidental death but wasn’t dead at all! And I can’t quite figure out how that mistake was made since accidental death was not very common.

The real reason I am rotted with the database is not because of such mistakes, however. Those are to be expected, especially when dealing with the heaps of information in the archive where I work and the years it took to create it. What really bothers me is that the project managers assumed that they would have time to enter the whole collection (within certain national boundaries since it is a transnational archive) within their timeframe. Of course, they were a little optimistic, and what was supposed to be a complete database turned out to be only a 25-50% sample. This bothers me for three reasons:

1) 25-50%? Hello? That’s not a small margin!

2) I have no idea when they switched from entering 100% of all data to only a sample. I do not know what they started with (which might be more complete) or how they subsequently picked their samples. Since no one was expecting to have to legitimize their sampling methodology (as there was supposed to be no sampling) there are no records at all of how this was done. In the ’80s. Yes.

3) When the decision was made to cut some of the data, it was the working men’s entries which were ditched. So in an annoyingly hilarious twist of fate we have this huge archive full full full of information on working men (and some women but, alas, don’t hold your breath), and yet when push came to shove it was their information which was cut when time constraints became apparent. So instead of having too much information on these ordinary guys, there is now too little!

Arg! I’m a possibly missing out on 50-75% of potential inventories!

They put everything into neat little piles … Neat little piles of chaos Mr. B! CHAOS!

Which is exactly how I feel. At face value, the database is wonderful. But as I’m sitting there, trying to interpret the statistics which it is producing, I have no idea how to read what the numbers seem to be telling me.

>>Liquor Alert!<<

Okay, so my roommate had some out of town friends over and I might have spent the rest of the night downstairs with them talking about dogs and crazy in-laws (not that I have either) and I may have not finished the article and also had a couple glasses of wine.

C’est la vie. Tomorrow is a new morning! (Ugh … I hate mornings).

Editing Sucks….

16 05 2010

… It sucks a lot.

Now I know I shouldn’t complain. I am getting something published in a journal which will appear roughly around the time when I start PhD grant applications, which would look great. AND it was something that my supervisor had been asked to write and graciously passed on to me, at the likely mortification of the journal editors …

… but still.

There’s a prof in the department who says that it’s more enjoyable to edit than to write. I’m also sure that ze likes to make these statements to increase my frustration and then snicker behind my back. Ze is also not the kind of person who likes to be told what to do repeatedly and last I heard hir books has been in the revision process for a long time. So I’m not exactly taking hir comment at face-value.

Now, this is only a five page research note. Nothing major. But I realize that the editor is looking for information completely different from what I am interested in, things I know nothing about. Now I’m going to have to more research on something which I have no foundation on whatsoever. Which is great … I know this is part of what I will be doing for the rest of my life and such (hopefully) … I’m just being lazy. And I’m bitching because it feels good.

Secondly, though, the editor is assuming that I have information that I just don’t have and I don’t think exists. Yes, I do have the unpublished manuscript of a book and a meager sampling of publishing receipts and other things, but I don’t know what the distribution of the book would have been and how it was received. There were only 1000 or so copies made in the 1930s and I think most of them were given as gifts by the female editor of the book. So I guess I’m frustrated that my editor is not seeing the limitations of what I can find out and what I needed to find out since the publishing information was never a prominent feature of the dissertation I produced a month ago.

But I am going to be published in a journal, so I guess I should keep my cool and just work through this. I wish my supervisor was not on vacation so I could talk this through with hir…

Right, right. Back to work………….