Archival Experience 1

Erin Andrewlevich

Working in the archives was a fascinating experience! Going into it, I was not completely sure what I was going to be looking at, what I needed to look for, and how to find the things I needed for our research, but after a short period of looking through the files, I quickly was able to make sense of the process I would need to do this research. I only looked through about two and a half folders but there was so much information. The strategy I devised was mainly to scan the papers in each file quickly and take pictures of anything I thought could potentially be useful, which ended being quite a lot. I decided I would go through the pictures and sort through information at a later time because I wanted to make the most of my experience at the archives and get through as much information as possible while I was there. I would rather have left the archives with too much information than too little.

The first file I looked (55,188-107) at was a case file involving a man named Joe Low. It was a habeous corpus file about him and his family being held in the detention center at Angel Island in 1922. He and his family were immigrants from China and were deported. This study could be beneficial to our project as it deals with one of the most prevalent immigrant groups that came through Angel Island and details the direct impacts of immigration restrictions on the people effected. The next few files I looked at contained information about the facilities at Angel Island (55,166-343). These files detailed the potential movement of the immigration center from Angel Island to somewhere else on the mainland. These sections also specified the internal operations of the island as well as many of the problems with the facility as it was operating such as the lack of funding which I think will be very helpful in our project.

Working with history in this context was also a new experience for me that I really enjoyed. I loved being able to see actual history and touch actual documents. It really put the topics we are learning and talking about in class in a new perspective. Researching this content for myself made the history seem so much more real. I got to look at all the documents (including the ones that are just extraneous), I was the one who got to decide what was important, and I get to make sense of all. I’m excited to go back in October because I know we will have more time for researching that day, and I will know better how and what to look for in the archives. Also, our group will probably have a better basis for out project by then which will help me narrow down my research further.

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