Day 1: Sick at the New York State Archives
I have been looking forward to my return trip to the New York State Archivesin Albany, NY for ages – I was even up early and lined up to wait for the elevators to open to get to the reading room. But apparently my body had other plans for today: I’m sick. Slight fever, a runny nose, and some aches and pains – nothing horribly bothersome to complain about – but I also have this annoying cough. As if my constant sniffling wasn’t enough to annoy my fellow researchers in the otherwise silent reading room (and yes, I noticed the glares), I was periodically attacked with coughing fits throughout the day. This is the one time I wish water bottles were permitted at archives – each time a fit hit I had to leave the room (get buzzed out), get some water, and return to the room (get buzzed in) only to repeat the process over and over. So I succeeded not only in annoying the other researchers with my sniffling and coughing but I also annoyed the archivists who have to unlock the door for me repeatedly.
And the thing about being sick while on an archive trip is that it’s not like you can just head back to the hotel, hang that “do not disturb sign”, and sleep for the remainder of the day. Archival research trips operate on a seriously tight budget (or at least mine do) in which you’ve paid for travel, paid for a place to stay, are eating peanut butter sandwiches you made in your hotel room, and have tried to schedule far too much research into far too few days – there is just not really any time to waste.
On a more positive note, I got to spend the day with copies of The Opal, the patient newspaper from Utica State Hospital that dates to 1851. I had seen the first volume during my last visit but had run out of time before I could go through the later editions. The volumes are filled with stories, opinions, and poetry – some of the text deals with the asylum, much does not. My attention was caught by far too many article and poems to comment on here but one to leave you with was a page titled: “Old Songs to Sing, Old Books to Read, Old Wine to Drink, Old Friends to Converse With” in the 12th number of the second volume. It opened with “At the risk of being considered antiquated and unfashionable, I must confess, a predilection for old things instead of new; even as a child I was fond of the company of aged people, their stories of olden time, their reminiscences of early days, their memories of hours, over which the moss of forgetfulness might grow deep, all were invested with strange fascination, to my curious ears, and I left dolls and plays to listed to some gray haired sire or venerable dame.” For those interested in The Opal, some of the volumes are available online.