The ‘Stuff’ of History

The Volga to Cape Fear Project has continued fairly smoothly since my last post. I have conducted two out of three oral history interviews, received several objects on loan for the exhibit that will go up in the spring, and am in the process of researching and writing the loan recommendation that will tie together information about the objects, what I learned in the interviews, and secondary source information about the history of Russia and immigration to the United States. Particularly, I am focusing on the interview I did with a couple who immigrated relatively recently, in 1995, and the things from their life that represent their journey.

The research involved presents a unique set of challenges. Several of the objects I am researching are books that are written in Russian and all of the objects were either made or sold overseas, making the likelihood of finding information about their manufacturing or advertising, etc. by using U.S. research resources very slim. The first problem can be solved by asking one of the wonderful members of our advisory board to help with the translation of the basics: title, author, and publisher information.

Since the Volga to Cape Fear Project is part of my class on historical collections, we are learning how to process artifacts as well. So far, we’ve practiced marking ceramic and textile objects with their accession numbers and making padded hangers for storage of textiles. Part of these techniques involves learning to sew simple stitches (used for attaching tags to textiles and making the padded hangers). Having never done any sewing before, this is a skill I will have to practice more!

I (in back/left) and fellow grad student, Jayd Buteaux, practicing marking ceramic objects with nibs.
I (in back/left) and fellow grad student, Jayd Buteaux, practicing marking ceramic objects with nibs. Photo by Dr. Tammy Gordon.

The next steps are to finish the loan recommendation, conduct the final oral history interview, and finish transcribing oral histories and processing both the interviews and the objects. Processing involves paperwork, cataloging, marking, and creating proper storage.

Overall I have learned so much not only about Russian culture and immigration but also about proper care and storage of artifacts, something I have been exposed to at previous internships but am now getting more practice in.

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