The drive into the center of the Nation’s capital will never fail to turn me into a little kid. I’ve done it a handful of times now but I still find myself gawking out the windows as we drive by every historical monument that until three years ago I had only seen on the big screen. However, today was different. In contrast to taking the touristy front entrance (much like Nicolas Cage in National Treasure – the last reference to the movie, I promise) we entered through the back door of the National Archives and were subsequently greeted with access to the greatest amount of historical data and sources that I have ever had access too.
To say I was little overwhelmed would be the understatement of the century. Prior to this excursion I liked to think that I was quite good and interpreting and internalising the knowledge gained from both primary and secondary sources as a historian. Upon opening my first box I came to the realisation that I was now doing ‘Real History’ for lack of a better term. Let me explain, this is no way in a slight to the various courses and Professors that have taught me before but the research projects I have completed in previous semesters have always been very controlled and heavily directed. The best analogy I could think of to describe this is being a dog on a leash. These courses give you a limited degree of freedom to stop and smell various sources but do not allow you to run off and chase the big questions and get lost in the woods of primary source analysis. That is the very same problem that I found myself dealing with on Friday, I was so deep into the woods I could no longer see where I entered from and everything started to look the same.
To branch away from this extended metaphor, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that was available for my group’s research. While I managed to find some information that will be pertinent and valuable to our final project, when we make our second trip to the archives next month. I will have to be much more organised and focused in my research methods. As with most things in life, you can’t expect to be great at something you’ve never done before and the only way to get better is to practice.
One of the most interesting cases that I came across after I broke through monotonous and honestly excessive amount of early 20thAmerican government bureaucracy was concerning the deportation of two immigrants through Angel Island. Two women by the name of Leong Hui Hing and Mrs. Rosalina Perez whom had entered through El Paso both were being deported for overstaying their immigration bond but were being held in the hospital at Angel Island as they were deemed unfit for deportation by the on-site Doctor, Rose Goong Wong. As Hing had pneumonia and Perez was suffering from langutetos. I found this specific case interesting as previously I had only thought of Angel Island a port of entry as opposed to a deportation station. Secondly this case perked my interest when I first read it as it was overseen by a doctor of Asian heritage and prior to our in class discussion this week I did not think that immigrants and their children would be a part of the immigration and deportation process.