Archival Research

Library of Congress - John Adams Building

So I finally went to the Library of Congress for actual archival research. They have about ten years worth of the ‘Kosmos’ magazine from 1919-1927 that I will look at for my paper. It was really fun. The whole family went down. Jess and I both got new LoC cards, then they went to a museum and I went to read old books.

Up until this point my big worry had been in finding some primary documents. Now that I have them, I don’t know what to do with them. I proposed this dilemma to the class last night and they had some great ideas on how to use the source. I also have a great article to use as a template, in that the historian, Nick Hopwood, looks at the ‘Urania’ magazine used by the socialists in Weimar Germany. (Nick Hopwood, “Producing a Socialist Popular Science in the Weimar Republic,” History Workshop Journal, no. 41 (Spring 1996): 117-153.)

Reading this article is my goal for tonight’s short two hour study session. I’m planning on going back to the LoC on Thursday to get some more data. But here are the ideas my classmates had:

  • look at a particular author that continually prints
  • look at one science/tech, follow how Nazi magazines and others treat the topic
  • look at old and new to see if they deal with a subject
  • what happened to the authors of the socialist papers
  • study what kind of articles are being printed, what topics come up continually
  • what happened to the authors/editors of the socialist papers, did they go to Dachau, were the scientists who published put to work in their fields?
  • narrow down the so what question. What question are you trying to answer, that will help you know what to look for in the sources.

Library of Congress - John Adams Building - 5th floor

What the issue really boils down to is that I need to narrow my topic. I can’t have my topic be ‘science and technology in Weimar Germany’. That’s way too broad. Too broad for a dissertation, even. I like the idea of focusing on one particular science or technology, and see how it is portrayed throughout the Weimar Republic, and even into post-Weimar Germany. Ideally, it aligns with my dissertation topic of Nazi tunnels.

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