My adventure has begun! Although I am not officially ABD and won’t be until October, I have begun dissertation research at the Newberry Library in Chicago. On Wednesday, I made the first of what will be many treks from my apartment, which is all of about three blocks from the Newberry. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I enjoyed the brief walk, tugging a short, but heavy, wheeled bag laden with some of my own books bound for my study carrel. Before too long, the winter wind and snow will have me hurrying through the streets as quickly as my many layers will allow, so I strolled, as much as possible while pulling a cart with a too-short handle.
Prior to my arrival, I filled out call slips for the first three books I wanted to study. All that remained for me to do when I walked through the doors was to find my study carrel. I knew it was in the McNickle Center, so I wandered in, looking as lost as the new fellows and employees who had just started. At least I was in good company. It only took a few minutes to find my work space though – a small cubicle carved out of the much larger office. I was so grateful to have a study carrel to work in that the cold didn’t seem to bother me as much as it had when I attended the Newberry’s NCAIS institute for four weeks this summer. I had a carrel at the Newberry! To top that off, I was given a title to put on my resume, extended access hours, and permission to attend to the fellows’ seminars, talks, and lunches. It was so much more than I had expected!
Today, I noticed the cold once again as my sandaled toes began to go numb and my fingers became stiff while typing. Even huddled up in a cozy wrap, I couldn’t stay warm enough. What is it going to be like this winter? I’ll have to get as much of my reading done in the special collections room as possible before then since it is at least five degrees colder in there than the rest of the floor. I have begun to wonder if I might need gloves and scarf before too much longer. There might be some advantages to growing accustomed to the frigid temperatures this winter; it might make the Newberry feel warmer!
In any case, I was able to pick up where I left off this summer and dove into the first book as soon as it was delivered – a study on Illinois country demography between 1673 and 1818 that should be quite useful. I realize how dry that must sound, but I would like to use the data to make a more dynamic (I hope!) point about women’s roles in the maintenance of the French-Illinois alliance, something the author seems to have overlooked. The project is beginning to take shape in my mind’s eye. I can see a skeleton. Now all I have to do is put it on paper, obtain my committee’s approval, and begin adding the flesh that will hold the bones together… It is both that simple and not. It’s difficult to explain. However, with my last written comprehensive exam and final oral exam looming, not to mention the prospectus defense, it will be a very busy four to six weeks. Hopefully, once I have checked these items off my to-do list, I will have more time to work on my own writing – here, as well as my dissertation.
In the meantime, I must return to reading, writing historiographies, studying French, and finding a martial arts style that suits me… more on that next time I write!