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Joy Schulz on Mining for Treasures

Joy Schulz, is a member of the History Faculty at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. She is the recipient of a 2013-15 AHA “Bridging Cultures” grant, studying Atlantic and Pacific influences on U.S. history. Below she talks about her research for a Spring 2013 article in JHCY, and a forthcoming article on the missionary children in Hawai‘i to appear in Diplomatic History (Oxford University Press).

In researching my article on the white children of American missionaries to the Hawaiian kingdom during the nineteenth century, I had the pleasure to travel to the islands for archival research. Some of my colleagues suggested that I chose my topic for that very reason! While the islands are always beautiful, travel to them is expensive, and my time was limited. From a very practical standpoint, my research at Punahou and the Hawaiian Missions Children Society archives took on an extremely frantic pace as I attempted to gather as many documents as I could in a short amount of time. I pass on to my fellow researchers one method that worked well for me. 

Many archives will now let researchers use digital photography. I borrowed an extremely nice camera from a friend, one that had an incredible zoom lens, and I spent my days taking photographs of nineteenth-century school compositions, diaries, letters and newspapers. My premise was that I would gather as much as I could and sort through everything when I returned home. 

Once back on the mainland (Nebraska, to be exact!), I downloaded the images and transferred them to PowerPoint slideshows according to topic. My reason for transferring the images to PowerPoint was so that as I deciphered the cryptic and faded handwriting, I could write in the notes box below the images. I also blew up the slides to at least 200% to better transcribe the handwriting. 

It was quite a process, and it took many months, but it revolutionized my research and allowed me to be more productive than I would have otherwise been with the short time I had in the archives. Even then, there were many children’s sources that I did not have time to look at and that I would like to go back and study some day. I would love to hear from others as to where their “treasure trove” of children’s sources resides and what some of the practicalities of their research has taught them. I look forward to a dialogue!

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