This is a guest blog post from Laura Keizer, one of our volunteers working in the Centre for Research Collections.
Archives are delightful places. Working in such a place regularly puts you in touch with a motley crew of visiting researchers who merrily toil away to complete diverse portfolios of original research. We help out where we can, provide documents, answer queries, and generally solve all sorts of interesting little mysteries. But despite our best efforts, we don’t often get to see where their local research takes the visitors afterwards, making the precise impact of the archive sometimes difficult to gauge.
This is where I came in. Having volunteered at the CRC for the past couple of months, I have attempted to trace the outcomes of research undertaken within these walls through reference analysis in Google Scholar. By examining and cataloguing every single digitised publication mentioning our university library for 2013, a handy account of authors, articles and associated archival sources appears (although itself absent of alliteration).
Although this process seems to be regarded by most onlookers as a veritable banquet of monotony, I assure you that it offered me quite a different experience. Often amazed by how diverse and multifaceted the subjects of research were, I ventured into realms of knowledge I might otherwise never have encountered. Article after article piqued my interest, from arctic explorations to the great medieval illuminators, from Scottish architecture to the frivolous escapades of nineteenth-century folklorists. An odd sentence from the latter, found in Stewart Sanderson’s article A Prospect of Fairyland, made me laugh in particular:
“Now it is obvious that the fairies who were capable of such cavalier behaviour as to kidnap a Scottish minister in his nightgown must have been very different from the frail, ballet-skirted, sylph-like creatures found in children’s story-books today.”
Of course, this work also provided me with a great opportunity to learn ever more about the vast collections of rare books and manuscripts cared for by the CRC. Listing the variety of consulted resources and provenance of those consulting them has made me more appreciative of the unending value of academic archives to scholars, students, and societies at large.