I made it back from NARA-College Park, and earlier than I thought; I decided that there was no more to see on Friday, so I got an earlier flight home, arriving four hours early to the surprise of my spouse. I’m in the midst of processing and assessing the trip. By the numbers:
- Hours in archive: 30
- Photos of documents: 1,233
- Cost: $1,071.82
Quantitatively, the trip was fine. Flying and staying in/around DC ain’t cheap, I have learned, so the cost was more or less unavoidable. And I came back with a lot of document images, especially considering how relatively little time I gave myself.
Qualitatively, though, the trip stunk. I’m miserable when I’m away from my spouse, so there’s that. As for the research, I’ll be lucky if ten percent of those photos are actually of any use to me. When it became clear that what I was looking for was buried deep inside not just a record group, not just a series, not just a box, and not just a folder, but at the document level, I started taking shots of anything that looked remotely relevant. This is, of course, the right way to do it when you have limited time, but it’s hardly satisfying. Beyond that, NARA-College Park is an intimidating place with intimidating people. Maybe it’s just my west coast sensibilities, but there are some real assholes there. The exception: David Pfeiffer, an archivist in the reference section. Nice guy, knows his stuff, and can come up with different ways of approaching your topic and what you’re looking for. I’ve sent a thank you note (always a good idea, by the way–your mom was right about this). His colleague Eugene was also good, but another fellow, who I won’t name, was a real prick. “I don’t know” followed by a grunt was his typical response. And he farted while walking by.
All in all, I’m glad it’s done and I hope not to go back. Actually, I do hope to go back, but to Washington proper rather than College Park. I only made it into Our Nation’s Capital once, to meet my cousin for dinner at Matchbox. It was the highlight of the trip. Coming in a close second was the cheap dinner I had the first night at Sardis Pollo a La Brasa in College Park — delicious, delicious Peruvian food.
My thanks to Yelp for the tip, which was much better than the cab driver:
Me: You live in College Park?
Me: Any good pizza places?
Cabbie: Oh, yeah, there’s one across the street from your hotel.
Me: You mean the Pizza Hut?