Coming from a northeastern lifestyle, the first aspect in cultural differences was how relaxed and laid back life is down there. I began my trek towards the Capitol complex a little before 9:00 a.m. Trudging up an elongated hill on which the main street runs, I (no lie) did not see one other person walking or driving along the hill.
It was like a ghost town!
Having worked in downtown Philadelphia where life starts sometime before 7:00 a.m., it was almost peaceful, the sense of calm the city of Montgomery has in the morning.
Also, if I only came away from this trip with one piece of information, it's that I LOVE bread pudding. Who knew? This, along with the very meaty and fried menus of most of the eating establishments, all lent to a very down-home, comfortable lunch and dinner time atmosphere.
Finally, the people epitomize the saying "Southern Hospitality." From a stranger's simple "hello," to the plentiful advice any person you talk to will lend, people there are not strangers, but fellow people helping one another through life.
I wanted to share this cultural information to give a glimpse into a society that is so much different than any I had experienced. If there are any non-Southern kids reading this and tossing around the idea of a trip south, from one northeasterner to another, do it! You won't regret it.
Overall, my second day of research began much like my first. I requested the boxes that I had planned and attacked the information chronologically. All in all, I came away from the trip with close to 100 documents.
I'm not sure if I will use all, half, or even a quarter of them, but what I do use will undoubtedly be pivotal in the writing of my thesis.
Coming away from this experience, I send you all a few pieces of research advice:
Go with a plan.
There is going to be more information than you'll know what to do with. Know what you're looking for, and focus on it.
Don't be worried by what you're missing; focus on what you have.
Again, there is going to be more information than you'll know what to do with. You can't worry about what's in the next box. Make the most of what you have.
Now, it's really up to your own personal preference, but I found it especially beneficial to take digital pictures of the documents I wanted to keep. This is for a number of reasons:
- It is fast! You can quickly move through documents, and you don't have to stop to make photocopies.
- From my experience, the archivists prefer it, as they don't have to be bothered in assisting you with questions surrounding duplicating (i.e. if it can be photocopied, how to do it, etc.)
- It's free!
I don't think I can say this enough: there is going to be more information than you'll know what to do with. I know I said to go with a plan and focus on what you plan on looking at, but also at the same time, be flexible. If you have a feeling about a certain box, or find a piece of information that may lead you off the path you planned, go with it! I probably wouldn't have found the legal filings that are most likely the best pieces of information I discovered without being flexible.
It is easy to get overwhelmed, and if you're ever in this situation, you most likely will be. I hope my experience and tips can help you in research experiences of your own to overcome that feeling!
Writing this blog and recording my experiences have not only given me a chance to spread my advice to you all, but also have given me a chance to reflect on my own time in Alabama. I hope you all had as much fun reading as I've had writing!