As much as I love to visit in person, and as vital as it is to my research, though, there are limits to my ability to travel. For the most part, I’ve paid for my own research trips. I had funding from my college and help from the Mayflower Society for my most recent trip, but other than that, I’ve paid for everything else. So I’m learning to use technology in other ways. Another clue from an old book led me on a path to a previously unknown archive in a small public library. That archive never came up in
Now that I’ve made all the “easy” finds, I’m facing the more difficult, and yet more enthralling, task of digging in deeper and finding the materials that aren’t so readily available. Technology has obviously made so many things easier; I would not have been able to accomplish this project 50 years ago. But there is nothing like being in an archive in person, especially when you don’t know what you might uncover. I’m not known for my sparkling conversation at cocktail parties (heck, I don’t even go to cocktail parties), but I can lose myself in a dusty archive and
I grew up reading books like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, and naturally that fascination led to an interest in the authors of those books. So my research on Austin is a natural fit for a life-long interest. But I didn’t expect to fall in love with archival research, and now I can say that I’m addicted. There is a definite thrill in viewing and reading something that no one has looked at in decades. And when it’s material about someone or something you’re passionate about, there’s a connection there that transcends the ages. Early in my PhD
I was excited to publish “Inventing the Pilgrims in American Literature” for the May 2017 edition of the Mayflower Journal, the members-only journal for the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. But I was even more excited when the director invited me to come to Plymouth for a week to conduct research in local archives and meet historians and others who work with Pilgrim and Plymouth history. I flew to Plymouth on May 19 and spent eight busy days trying to accomplish as much as I could. I finished up my week with a lunch talk with the Mayflower Society staff
Now that I’m explaining this project to friends and colleagues, I find they’re often a little puzzled. Many think that I’m researching the actual Pilgrims and Puritans, but I’m mostly interested in what happened to their story after they were long gone. But I still get some questions, mostly about why this project is relevant in 2017. Originally, I was fascinated by all the ways that literature got the facts wrong. Then I was intrigued by the ways history borrowed from literature. Then I started to see all of those texts as very closely related, as a process of representation
“How to revive Massachusetts’ first language,” an article about the Wampanoag Nation’s efforts to “resurrect” their native language, appeared in the Boston Globe a few days ago. It’s a fascinating look at their dedicated efforts over the last few decades. One line in particular stood out to me: “What happened to Wampanoag was an act of violence, a cruel chapter of Massachusetts history that is rarely discussed.” And when it is discussed, it is a heated debate, to say the least. Historians try to sort out the responsibilities and actions of the varying groups, from the Puritans to the Pilgrims.