This was definitely not my first time at the NYPL because I’ve been doing all of my thesis research there. The Jack Kerouac Papers are part of the Berg Collection, so I usually go to that reading room on the third floor. I first went there two years ago when I was but a small, novice researcher. I actually choked up the first time I got to hold one of Kerouac’s notebooks!
This visit was really wonderful! I enjoyed the emphasis on critical thinking and discussion. Too often I find myself focusing only on what information I’m looking for and what artifacts I need to call next. But pausing to think about what you expect simply based on the item description was really fun! It speaks to the deeper issues of what we talked about in our first few classes. How do you manage your expectations while at the archive? What happens when you go in with expectations but are disappointed? Should you go in with expectations of serendipity, or just with your to do list?
Funnily enough, I feel like the giant registry of dogs that we looked at taught me some great lessons. First, there’s a lot to be gained from random encounters. I would never have sought out that item on my own because it is so far away from my own area of research. But even the most insignificant, random artifact can help you understand something about the past you never would have otherwise.
My second take-away was that collaborative research is much more enjoyable. I can’t remember all the times I’ve been doing research on my own, found something truly remarkable, and just had to whisper in awe to myself. Just being able to say what I was thinking out loud about the dog registry and hear what others were noticing helped me consider it on a much deeper level. So often research is isolating. And I wonder if I would be getting more out of my Kerouac research if I was talking about it with someone else.