Finishing Things in New York

Okay … so in case it wasn’t perfectly clear before, y’all should know now that I’m a bad blogger. Here I am, sitting in a coffee shop just hours before I leave the City, and I’m realizing that I haven’t posted a single blog entry in over a week. Let me take a little bit of time to catch y’all up so that, in my next entry, the kinds of reflections I have about doing technologically enhanced archival research have some context.

Days 5 & 6
I sent the weekend catching up on some work I’d committed to, unrelated to my trip through the archives. I revised and resubmitted an essay that was in my queue, read and commented on a grad student’s thesis chapter, and read and commented on a couple of essays written by friends who were looking for feedback before finishing up their wonderful projects. The weather sucked on day 5, so I stayed at the hotel most of the day. Day 6, I went on an adventure down to the Lower Eastside and then rode the bus up to El Barrio to do my reviewing work.

Day 7
I spent the day visiting with some colleagues and friends from different realms of my life. For lunch, I met up with Arlene Torres, who founded and ran for many years the Latina/Latino Studies Program at UIUC, which is where I did my postdoc in 2008-2009. She is such a wise and kind person. In the afternoon, I made my first ever trip to Little Italy and met up with some friends from the cigar world — that hedonistic part of my life. We had good conversations, great cigars, and delicious food.

Day 8
I spent Tuesday, May 24th, in the main branch of the New York Public Library. I got there a little early (the archival collections don’t open until noon) and scoped out the beautiful displays, architecture, and work spaces. If you’ve never been to the NYPL, give yourself some time there when you visit New York. I saw my first Gutenberg bible, original notebooks from Malcolm X, a first edition Kepler text, and more. It was awesome.

The archival collection, itself, was quite awesome too. Unlike the Tamiment, the NYPL has restrictive procedures in place to really protect the materials in their collection. I had to make arrangements in advance to have the collections there at the time of my appointment (none of which was required at NYU). Furthermore, no photographs were allowed, so I had to request copies/scans of the materials I was interested in keeping (something that will take about a month for them to complete).

Despite finding aids that indicated a few collections with Young Lords materials, there really weren’t many things in their collections — only one piece, actually, that was specific to the Lords. That said, the trip wasn’t a loss at all because there were good holdings on the Young Patriots and on STAR (Sylvia Rivera’s organization), both of whom worked in coalition with the Lords. Finding related documents like these are a reason (as I mentioned in a previous post) that doing hands-on research in an archive is beneficial. Had I been working with electronic collections that had been tagged only for the Young Lords, I would have missed out on other documents that give me a better sense for the “big picture” of the Lords’ activities.

After working through all of their relevant sources, I went and spent the evening with grad school co-conspirator Jamie Skerski. We had fun in Brooklyn. πŸ™‚

Day 9 & 10
I spent the days working in the Schomburg Center archives, with a slight detour back to NYU. While the Schomburg didn’t have anything directly related to the Young Lords (and I knew that going in) they did have a lot of other documents related to the Panthers and SDA, both of whom had different kinds of connections to the Lords. My detour back to NYU was to follow a new lead I’d tracked down in the Schomburg collection.

Day 11
This was an off day. I was going to meet up with a colleague from another school, but he had to cancel at the last minute. I needed a break from work, so I wandered around NYC, ate falafel, and watched 13 Assassins at the IFC Center. It was a pleasant day.

Day 12
Met up with another Young Lords scholar, Elias Ortega, for lunch at an awesome lechon place in the Bronx and great conversation. After that, I went to Queens to meet up with my good friend Jorge for tapas and some wandering around Astoria. All in all, a productive and fun day of friends and food. πŸ™‚

Day 13
Here I am … typing away on my iPad and about to grab on last slice of pizza before catching a cab to the airport.