During the course of my PhD I have visited a number of different archives, spending numerous hours scowering through documents to find materials that will benefit my research. Researching in archives is often a time consuming process and it can feel like you are searching for a needle in haystack depending on which archive you visit and you may never find that smoking gun that will answer all the questions to your research project.However, archival research can be an incredibly rewarding and fun experience.This segment is devoted to providing you with my own experience of individual archives and the places I visited.
The purpose of my visit was to present a paper at the RSC’s annual PhD seminar however whilst there I decided to do a bit of research by utilising the Declassified Documents Reference System. Middelburg is a two and half hour train ride from Amsterdam where I flew in from Newcastle while the RSC is based in the middle, just a five to ten minute walk from the train station. Based in a very picturesque building, the atmosphere of the RSC is incredibly relaxed and the staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming. The center contains a huge array of primary documents from a variety of periods of U.S. history as well as books, periodicals and much much more. Although this was just a brief research session, it was nevertheless very productive!
My final archival visit of this trip was to the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University in New Jersey to view the papers of former Deputy National Security Advisor, David Aaron. Princeton is fairly easy to get to by rail, although as I was travelling on a Sunday I did have to get off at Trenton and get on to the New Jersey transit system to take me to Princeton. I travelled to Princeton after doing my research in Washington D.C. however if you wanted to start off at the University you could fly into Newark and get the New Jersey Transit to Princeton from there fairly easily. The Mudd library is located on Campus but like with other archives you need to register and pre-order your materials online before you visit. Once at Princeton you need to register with the Privileges Office in the Firestone Library where they will issue you with a researchers card which is a nice memento of your visit.
The second archival visit of my March trip was to the Fenwick Library at George Mason University to view the papers of Harold Saunders. George Mason University is based in Fairfax, Virginia and is around thirty miles from Washington D.C. however it is fairly easy to get to via public transport. Simply head on to the last stop on the orange line of the Washington metro line, Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, and at the station is a commuter bus that takes you straight to the University. There was no need to register with the Fenwick Library beforehand however they did ask that you contact them stating the date and time of your arrival so that they could prepare the necessary papers and there is a form to fill out. All the staff I dealt with were very friendly and punctual in reply to correspondence and all the materials I request were available when I got there.
My first archival visit of this research trip was to the Library of Congress. The library is based on Capitol Hill just opposite the Capitol Building. Prior to viewing any materials you need to register if you are a first time visitor. The process is pretty simple but is somewhat long winded and there are a number of forms to fill in and sign. However once you get you a reader card which is valid for two years. The registration takes place in the Madison Building which is across the road from the main LOC building, the Jefferson building. Once registered you can get on with your research. I was based in the Manuscript Room in the Madison building. Requesting materials was easy and the pull time was no more then five minutes which given the number of collections at the library is pretty efficient.
My second research trip of 2015 was to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. I previously visited the library in 2013 when doing researching for my Masters however that was just a fleeting trip and my first visit as a PhD candidate was much more significant. The library ask that you email prior to your visit and once you arrive they are friendly and hospitable. Particularly the lady at the reception desk! Registration is a breeze and once you are issued a researchers card, you are good to go. When I arrived the first time in 2013, they provided me with a list of materials that maybe of interest which was particularly helpful. There is always an archivist on hand to handle any queries you have and the ordering of materials is relatively straightforward.
My first research trip of 2015 took me to New Haven, Connecticut and the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University to look at the papers of former U.S. Secretary of State, Cyrus R. Vance. Registration was straightforward and there were no issues at all. Prior to visiting you will need to register with AEON and order the materials from there because the documents I wished to view were not held on site. The process is fairly simple and as the finding aids are online you can get a better idea what materials you may wish to order. Whilst viewing the finding aid, you can simply click request box and a request is generated. The Cyrus R. and Grace Sloane Vance papers are housed in the Sterling Memorial Library.