Preparation for Field Work

Several of the graduate students in the class have experience conducting historical research generally and on Detroit particularly. Other students are research novices but are familiar with the historian’s craft. To address the differences in students’ experiences, I wanted to made sure we visited local libraries so they could learn about their special collections and connect with some of the city’s wonderful archivists and librarians.

Because students’ projects must be accessible to the public, we started with an OMEKA tutorial from Wayne State digital librarians Joshua Neds-Fox and Graham Hukill on September 15th. Students found the information Josh and Graham provided to be helpful but I think some of them were a bit nervous about the technical aspects of creating sites built around the objects needed for OMEKA when they hadn’t conducted their research yet. I gave students the option of building sites using WordPress so we’ll see what they choose in the end.

On September 17th, we visited the Reuther Library, which has collections not only on organized labor but also on racial discrimination in employment and housing, prominent public officials and civil rights activists, and groups like the Michigan Freedom Now Party and DRUM.

Walter P. Reuther Library
Walter P. Reuther Library ~ Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/90/Reuther_South.jpg/220px-Reuther_South.jpg

Meghan Courtney gave us a behind the scenes tour of the library.

IMG_1034
WSU HIS 5261/7261 students in the Reuther Library’s Collection Processing Room Image courtesy KEW

Kristen Chinery provided us with a tutorial on using the Reuther’s extensive Special Collections. One resource that will probably useful for students’ desire for images is the Virtual Motor City Collection. Chirney also had students explain their projects and she told them a) whether or not the Reuther might have materials on them in their collections b) where they might find them c) specific archivists they might need to contact for assistance. This information was incredibly helpful and probably saved students a LOT of time.

Students in Reuther Library's Reading Room Courtesy KEW
WSU HIS 5261/7261 students in the Reuther Library’s Reading Room Image courtesy KEW

On September 22nd we visited the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

Card Catalogs still in full effect at the Burton ~ Courtesy KEW
The Card Catalog was still in full effect at the Burton (this changed on Oct 1 when OCLC printed its last cards) ~ Courtesy KEW
Students and Burton archivist Romie Minor looking at Henry Bibb's paper, The Voice of the Fugitive ~ Courtesy KEW
Students and Burton archivist Romie Minor looking at Henry Bibb’s paper, The Voice of the Fugitive ~ Courtesy KEW

Romie Minor showed us their Special Collections, which includes extensive information on Black Detroit, including the Coleman Young Papers which became available earlier this year.

Some of the Undergrads. ~ Courtesy KEW
Some of the Undergrads. ~ Courtesy KEW
Students at Burton Historical September 22. ~ Courtesy KEW
Students at Burton Historical September 22. ~ Courtesy KEW

One student remarked that my visual documentation of class library visits was like the “mom” snapping pictures at the birthday. She was not wrong.

Students at the Burton ~ Courtesy KEW
Students at the Burton ~ Courtesy KEW

On September 24th, we visited the Wright Museum’s Archives and Research Library where Katy Shroeder showed us the Wright’s holdings.

Wright Museum Collections on Detroit ~ Courtesy KEW
Wright Museum Collections on Detroit ~ Courtesy KEW
Wright Museum Collections on Detroit ~ Courtesy KEW
Wright Museum Collections on Detroit ~ Courtesy KEW
I wasn't even going to take a picture but then a student asked and of course I was ready to comply. 😏
I wasn’t even going to take a picture but then a student asked and of course I was ready to comply, even though some of the students were still talking to Ms. Shroeder in the back. 😏

The visits to the research libraries took us out of the classroom and into places some of us had not seen. We’re incredibly grateful for the light the librarians threw on researching Detroit history in their institutions and presenting work for public audiences.

On September 29th, we returned to the classroom for four weeks of reading and discussing Detroit’s Black history. The idea is to develop students’ understandings the history and historiography so they can add depth and breadth to their projects.

Advertisements