No Topic is Off-limits With Archival Research
By: Brooke Price
At the presentations on archival research given at CSI on Archives History Day, three speakers discussed how archives have improved their works. They have all agreed that reading through the archives of their field of research helped them to strengthen their works.
Archives enable writers to access information that they are unable obtain from other sources. They are also used to help writers back up their points of view or gather insight for their writing.
One of the speakers who discussed the benefits of archival research was Maryann Feola, a professor and a member of the English department at CSI.
In her speech, she discussed how she used archives for her works; “Geography of Shame: A Fictionalized Memoir” and “George Bishop, Seventeenth Century Soldier Turned Quaker.” Feola wanted to gather research for her 2015 memoir “Geography of Shame: A Fictionalized Memoir” about her great grandmother, Angelina.
Her great grandmother was born in 1870 in Italy and came to the United States in 1892. Not many family members knew about great grandmother Angelina’s story, so Feola decided to check the library archives.
She also used the archives for research while working on her PhD at the CUNY Graduate Center.
This led to her to writing “George Bishop, Seventeenth Century Soldier Turned Quaker”. While writing her PhD dissertation, and later her biography of Bishop, she used archives from British libraries in London to aid her in the archival research needed to strengthen her work.
Another speaker who referred to the archives in their work was Marc Pitanza, an independent researcher and author of “Staten Island Rapid Transit.”
Around the year 2000, while he was looking for sources to strengthen his work, Pitanza found an essay that discussed the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad from the archives. He learned about Staten Island’s industrial history through the essay, leading to his book on the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad.
Pitanza felt that he was able to connect with the archivists who wrote about the Staten Island railroad in the 1950s and 1960s while he was working on his book.
Kristin Pitanza, a professor and a member of the English department at CSI found archives to greatly help her in her publication. She wrote “Speed My Way Up” which is composed of four short stories that are set in Staten Island.
Pitanza wanted to educate people about Staten Island’s history, people, the hospital, as well as civil rights at CSI. She was inspired by the archives of Staten Island to write her book.
In her collections, she sculpts the Staten Island transit system as a character as well as the backdrop for her short stories. Pitanza used the archives to research the hospitals on Staten Island, such as the Willowbrook State School to talk about hospital rights and the inhumane treatments of patients.
She also referred back to the archives to discuss how Staten Island changed after the addition of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, as well as how Staten Island has become increasingly popular as the years progress.
After listening to the three speakers, guests understood how beneficial archival research is. By including as much information as possible in your work while also getting your point across, your writing becomes more efficient.
Also, all of the speakers were able to research topics in the archives that some people weren’t familiar about.
After each speech, the audience learned that no topic is unable to be researched. No matter how much information there is about a topic, the archives can hold a bulk of the information that is needed to help with your research.
Incorporating information from the archives helps the readers to envision the concept more vividly since there is more information for the reader to analyze and understand. Archives can hold valuable information if you search hard enough.
The archives can be used to help researchers improve their writing. The archives can supply facts and information from years ago that might not be known by others.
Archives can help people research many topics that might not be well known while also containing important documents of past people that can be analyzed and put into writing.
The archives play a pivotal role in research. They are used to backup writers’ voices and provide insight on historical aspects.
The three speakers, Maryann Feola, Marc Pitanza and Kristin Pitanza, were all able to relate back to their archival research when they were discussing their works. Each speaker was able to elaborate on how they used the archives to gain more information about the topic they were researching.
Archives are an important resource for writers to use that can enhance their writing and give the audience factual evidence about their work
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