I spent the past week at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University as a Mary Lily Travel Grant Recipient.  Sadly I didn’t get to see much of Raliegh-Durham as I worked most of the time.

I flew in Monday.  By the time I got my rental car, found my way to Duke and located the parking lot, it was 4PM.  Duke student had finals last week and thus there was NO PARKING and I mean NONE for one day pay parking (so please don’t ever let me hear you complain about parking at Rosemont).  In frustration I bailed and headed over to my motel.  The Red Roof Inn was pretty scary looking from the outside, but once I got into my room, I was astonished at what $55.99 gets you per night in the south, although the place was decked out in primary colors normally reserved for preschools.

Once I unpacked, I headed out to locate Target for grocery shopping and to take a Pilates class.  I only got lost twice, which I consider quite credible. 

Tuesday morning I woke up at 4:30 AM.  I was determined to arrive at Duke at the crack of dawn just in case parking proved difficult again.  I traced my route out and managed NOT to get lost, and found my way past what had to be the fanciest Methodist church I’d ever seen.  The students in the south are stunning polite.  Despite rushing to an early morning final, a lovely student not only stopped to give me directions to Perkins library, but also called me ma’am.  I’d forgotten what a big uni library is like, and I was please to locate an atrium café for coffee while I waited for the special collections to open.

I was incredibly happy to see that the other visiting research my week was Jennifer Nelson, whose book on women of color and the reproductive rights movement I’d reviewed some time ago.  I introduced myself and began going through boxes of historical documents.  As always, because I don’t work on presidents or major historical events like wars, the papers were only partially processed.  That is to say, the folders were labeled, but the contents may or may not have belonged in said folder.  500+ photographs of documents and nine hours later I staggered out. I spent the evening in my hotel room labeling the photographs.

Wednesday I awoke late, so rushed out to get to Duke ever fearful of the parking situation.  I managed to squeeze in some time in the stacks looking at books that Duke had but that were unavailable at Rosemont even via ILL.  Another 600 or so images and who knows how many archival boxes I headed home to prepare the talk required of scholars the next day.

I have to say, I failed to follow my own advice to students.  Rather than keeping it a simple two to three point talk, I tried to do images and an big overview of my proposed book.  I was burnt from so much time staring at documents.  It was a huge mistake to try to write 10 pages from scratch.  Thursday was spent, again in the archives, until 3PM when we stopped to go give our talks.  Annoyingly, I realized when I arrived that I could show images or use my laptop to read my talk.  Umm mistake number 2, I chose the images.  I’m sure my audience, except for the other women’s historians, was confused by my rambling four(ish) point discussion.  SIGH.

Jennifer and I had already decided to head out for a celebratory dinner after the talks.  The archivist recommended this excellent restaurant and Jennifer and I sampled their locavore cocktails and shared six of the nine appetizers, including the Southern specialty of hush puppies.  Stuffed, I headed back to the hotel and crashed.

By day five I was like a senior facing her last college final.  I could barely bring myself to open the boxes.  Thankfully I was down to looking at women’s movement periodicals, and so I trudged on through.  Annoyingly, Duke had assigned ALL the public parking to alumni coming in for an event, so I had to park in the visitors lot at the Sarah Duke botanical gardens.  While the walk through was lovely, parking was limited to four hours, so I had to schlep back at lunch time.  Around 1pm Jennifer, who was catching a ride with me to the airport, asked if I wanted to leave early and hit a mall.  I eagerly agreed and we bailed at 3PM for a quick jaunt before heading back to the airport.

All told I took over 2700 images.  I’m a bit panicked about that even though a large chunk are periodicals that I won’t need to read entirely.  Still I’ve set myself a deadline of June 29, when we leave for Cali, and I go into ANOTHER archive to get more documents, for going through this stuff.  Hmm just did the math and that is just under 100 pics per day, although as I said a bunch are periodicals that I don’t really need to read.  I’m going to block out an hour, maybe my crack of dawn time, to do it, and to label the images so I can find what I need as I write.

Next update I promise to share some of what I’ve written so far