Shortly before the end of 2020, the papers of National Book Award–winning author Lily Tuck arrived at the Harry Ransom Center. It is always exciting when a new archive enters our building, but this arrival from New York City, in the midst of a devastating pandemic, felt especially significant. The collection’s delivery was originally scheduled for March of 2020 but was promptly put on hold as we began to learn of a dangerous, new, and rapidly spreading virus and as institutions shut down around the world. Until measures could be put into place to ensure the safety of everyone involved, the delivery of Lily Tuck’s correspondence, her research notes, manuscripts of such novels as The News from Paraguay and The Double Life of Liliane, and other material documenting her writing life had to be delayed. [Read more…] about The slow research of collection development
What is Research?
Biography is a long, slow process of careful research … Reading diaries and letters and sifting through artifacts … I found the answers to these questions by carefully examining each document and artifact, and slowly I was able to write her story … As a biographer, going to an archive is how you find the person you are writing about.
—IRIS JAMAHL DUNKLE
Buildings tell stories. When Victorian-era critic John Ruskin looked at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, he saw a building that reminded him of an illuminated book, intended to be legible to a visitor. The façade created a space that could start doing the work of the church before the visitor even went inside; as he wrote, “both externally and internally, the architectural construction became partly merged in pictorial effect” as “a vast illuminated missal.” The colors, materials, images, and ornamentation are not just objects of analysis or delight but incorporate a viewer as a participant in the building’s project and environment. [Read more…] about ETCHED ARCHIVE: Windows at the Harry Ransom Center
Since the start of the pandemic, the Instructional team of the Harry Ransom Center has met every two weeks to figure out how to alter our teaching for virtual instruction. With each new class, our educators have quickly adopted a new tool or shifted our lesson plan, assessed what worked and didn’t, and then tried again. Like everyone else, we began to experience Zoom fatigue, so dispensed with long, slow discussions in favor of 10-minute interactive segments. These changes reflect the logistical necessities of teaching online in a pandemic. Yet the forced shift within our Instructional program has helped us refine our teaching and taught us a few things in the process. [Read more…] about Teaching research online during a pandemic
Lately, I have been dreaming of archives. I have never visited the Harry Ransom Center in person, but I recently perused its finding aids and made a checklist for a future trip. Noting the items from the Virginia Woolf Collection that I want to study, I was reminded of Woolf’s essay “The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.” In it, Woolf wrote, “We like to feel . . . that other hands have been before us, smoothing the leather until the corners are rounded and blunt, turning the pages until they are yellow and dog’s-eared. We like to summon before us the ghosts of those old readers.” I daydream about examining the Ransom Center’s collection of books from Woolf’s personal library, summoning her ghost as I survey the physical traces left by her reading. [Read more…] about NOT SPEED READING: The slow pleasures of research
During my time as a researcher, I have always been a working graphic designer. I suspect that, as a consequence, my underlying mindset has always been very results-driven. As a designer, if you want to get paid, all the ends have to be tied up, all ideas followed to a conclusion. Therefore, sitting at a desk in a library, I still feel that I have to produce something that can be shown to the world, whether this be in book form, an article, or other verbal or visual presentation. Although I always really enjoy the process of research, rightly or wrongly, a product is always at the back of my mind. Investigation, then communication. [Read more…] about Slowly, and then round again