Hello everyone! I am presently in Ireland researching on a grant funded by Villanova University’s Summer Research Grant program. The scope of my research here covers some materials that will be utilized for an independent study instructed by Dr. Bailey. This Blog will cover some of the trials and tribulations faced by a researcher new to an international archive.
Tips and tricks for researchers abroad: libraries should not be confused for parliament buildings—no matter how important you think they are.
Yes, that’s right, friends. Dear old Nick, after taking a nice stroll – okay, let’s be honest – I got lost on the way to Ireland’s beautiful National Library and Manuscript Research Building. The complex is located along a few blocks of Kildare Street—or Kill-dare Street or, more lovingly, Khil-jare, Kilare, or Kaiare as pronounced by a few helpful natives. This linguistic ambiguity further added to my uncertain sense of direction, already compounded by winding streets frequently cutoff by more winding streets and construction. Eventually, I made it—but not before being confronted with a final choice: Door A or Door B. I chose Door B, the highly secure door with the guys with guns. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “context clues, my man!” But when lost in a foreign city there are few context clues that really matter.
After being redirected by the large, armed, but very friendly men guarding Ireland’s Parliament building, I was redirected to the National Library’s Main Stacks which was right next door. There I was registered and given a reading card. From the main building I ordered two sets of manuscript documents which I planned on reviewing. I then moved to another building just up the street as these documents were prepared and delivered to my new location by super-secret archivists who never see the light of day.
My plan was to take pictures of all the documents in each folio, then catalog them in a manner mirroring the archive so that I could take full advantage of my limited time. In other words, with these documents digitized on my hard drive, I could review them as much as I wanted, essentially bringing Dublin with me wherever I went. The hardest task, then, became reviewing then thousands of manuscripts and documents related to my topic, even those that may only be tangentially related since I would not be directly reviewing the documents while seated in the reading room as this would take away from the total number of documents I could digitize and take home.
After this evaluation, I simply became a photographer / documenter. First, I photographed the full folio description, tag, and folder. I then recorded a short description of the documents’ content and formats, e.g.: handwritten vs. typeset and the type of paper. I went on to take images of the front of every page and the back of any page that had any significant marking or damage, keeping in mind that this may be the only time I get to see the document. This process could, for more lengthy folios, take upwards of one hour.
I look forward to my return trip to the Library tomorrow. Hopefully I find it a little quicker and, *fingers crossed*, manage not to start any international incidents.
For now, I’m hiding behind a well-deserved pint. Go dtí amárach.