Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The simple beauty of not finding something

This may sound like an odd posting, but sometimes in the world of research it's good to know that something is not going to lead anywhere.

I have been researching several people for a book on ideologically motivated deportations during the early years of the Cold War (I know that some style books don't actually capitalize the term Cold War anymore, but continuing to do so is my little act of stylistic disobedience. It just doesn't make sense not to capitalize Cold War!) Anyway, in doing this research, I went hunting for an archival collection of papers for a certain person.

Whenever I locate an archival source, I get excited--travel, new places, new documents to peruse. But I also get worried--travel and its expense and the time of learning a new archive's systems. So, I send off an email to the archivists half hoping the answer will be "yes--we have tons of material on that topic" and half hoping the answer will be "no--there's nothing here."

Today, I must admit to being relieved when I learned that an archive in Miami does not have anything related, despite the collection's description that sounded promising. First, travel money for research is drying up faster than airline perks. Second, I detest hot weather and that archive would have meant Miami in the summer. And third, sometimes it's just good to check something off the list as a dead end. Now I can go looking for a more productive tree to bark up.

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