Now I have spent some mornings in the St. Olaf archives, reacquainting myself with the finding tools available for the Boe collection and starting to read through the files. Even when I have a clue about a letter that might be useful, I still read the whole folder it is in . . . . just in case. And the last couple of days I’ve been reading from folder 1, to 2, and so on, concentrating on 1919. Lots of the correspondence is routine.
Dear President Boe, I am a high school student. I want to come to St. Olaf. Will you send me an application form? Thank you. And then he replies saying he will, sometimes saying that the student would be very welcome.
Or, Dear Boe, Will you come to speak at our event or come to our meeting? To which he often replies, I would like to but I am not available then.
Sometimes, Dear Professor Boe, Can recommend someone to do the following for us? And he writes, I’ll see what I can do.
So, in the midst of this I happened upon a comparison that helps me enjoy the task. Archival research is like panning for gold! Slow, uncertain, and often unproductive, but always anticipating the moment when a it of gold will swirl into to sight at the bottom on the pan. Once in a while it will happen; there will be a discovery made from diligent panning, a measure of good luck, and the sun hitting the water at just the right angle.