This week our class visited the Carleton College Archives. After a talk by Nat Wilson on the diversity of archival spaces, various types of record forms (photos, drawings, typed/handwritten notes, accounts/lists, film, etc.), and considerations for research (hours, staffing, digitization, organization, secondary research, technical complications, authenticity of documents, etc.), we got the chance to look through some of Carleton College’s archival collection, specifically that pertaining to the Women’s Cabin.
I was particularly struck by some of the photographs taken in the 1940’s, during a period of student-led construction at the cabin. While many of these pictures were painfully staged, I found odd details within them fascinating. A few examples of these include a horse helping with construction, a student balanced precariously on a ladder, a large, beautiful indoor fireplace, and a cabin dog eating off a student’s plate. One of the photos of students helping out with construction/renovations even featured a now hilariously dated caption, something along the lines of, “Carleton women proving they’re not just jitterbugs!”
This taste of what the Carleton College Archives has to offer sparked my interest in larger collections, not just those relating to Carleton, but to the greater city of Northfield. I find myself particularly intrigued in photographs dating back to the prohibition era. Were any students photographed drinking alcohol? Did pictures like this contribute to the historical animosity between college students and “townies,” as described in the History of Carleton reading?
I look forward to exploring/researching a few more Northfield/Rice County archives later in the term!
For this week’s lab, my group braved heavy rain, mud, and cold to conduct a rather heroic field-walking survey. As one of group two’s fieldwalkers, I scoured the mud for lithics, ceramics, metals, bricks, plastics, glass, concrete, etc. In the first iteration, I found three sherds of a white china dish with a green pattern on the edge (collected two), fourteen small to medium sized chunks of brick (collected one), one shard of rounded, clear glass, one spherical metal wheel, which may have been part of a farming hose, and one mixed media concrete and ceramic object that I could not identify on first sight. In the second iteration, I found far fewer artifacts overall: four chunks of brick and two slabs of concrete, none of which proved remarkable enough for collection.
One potential flaw in my individual surveying was that due to the increasing downpour, I had to move far more quickly in the second iteration than the first. This may be the reason why I wasn’t able to find anything for collection, as opposed to there being simply fewer artifacts on that part of the site. Ground visibility was also compromised on the second round, and as the rain picked up the mud became exponentially more treacherous.
The process of fieldwalking was in general much more difficult than I had imagined it. It was hard to stay parallel and move in a straight line on the uneven ground, while at the same time scanning the surface. An added challenge was trying to stay at an even pace with my fellow fieldwalkers, as I often found myself getting behind. However, our finds at the site were far more interesting than I thought they would be, especially based on my first look at the field. Rain and cold aside, I really enjoyed fieldwalking: the controlled specificity of the process, the rush of discovering something breathtaking, and the particularly good company.