Have you ever wondered what historical records look like in the real world? Where they sit before they get in the hands of archivists and researchers? Or how we move those records from their creators to the archives?
My latest article “Archiving Danville” was published in Contingent Magazine earlier this week and offers a glimpse into my job as an acquisitions archivist and an exciting records discovery I made this past summer. I was reviewing records at Danville State Hospital, a mental institution in central Pennsylvania, and happened across a trove of historical documents that had been sitting behind locked cabinet doors for decades, unknown to historians and unavailable for research. I spent a long, hot summer day going through records dating back to the 1860s and we ended up with over 20 large boxes of material that has been brought back to the State Archives.
I think its a really exciting story and I hope you’ll enjoy coming on this archival adventure with me. Finding exciting records like this and making them accessible for research is the best part of my job and I’m really lucky to have these opportunities. As an acquisitions archivist, I usually help collect records that are fairly recent (created in the past 50ish years). It’s really rare for large troves of records from the 19th century to still be out in the field like this.
Click here to read the full article on Contingent’s website.
Contingent Magazine is a fantastic new non-profit magazine and its goal is to publish historical writing from folks who are working outside the typical university tenure-track positions that we usually see. As an archivist, its a challenge for me to get my research published in historical journals since I don’t have a PhD or a long history of publications. I’m really glad Contingent gave me this opportunity to write. I highly recommend checking out their website and donating if you’re able.
Thank You for your preservation work and for publicizing your Danville State Hospital archival efforts. Once the materials are processed, my interest would be to research the institution’s response to the homicide of Dr. Ralph Erskine Johnston, April 3, 1901.
Very interesting David! I hadn’t heard of this but now I’m intrigued too. The Danville records aren’t quite ready open for research yet, but should be soon. Feel free to email me at my work address email@example.com if you’d like to chat more. There are a few different record sets in the collection where I think you’ll find mention of Dr. Johnston.