Jun
17

Update 3: Fraught with Crisis

It started with a Monday without my morning coffee. In the past two weeks, I was working at Yale Divinity School Library Special Collections. However, this trip did not turn out as I expected it to be — in a rather negative way. As usual, I requested some materials before I arrived and then asked the archivists for printed finding aid, hoping to uncover some “hidden treasure” that does not appear in the online catalog. I got a little uneasy when I found little useful information among the requested materials. I became even more anxious when I asked the archivists about the Methodist Episcopal Mission archives. Their answer indeed gave me a shock: the largest depository is not at Yale but at Drew University! Additionally, the potentially relevant collections are the ones I was looking through, in which the relevant information was rather scanty. At the same time, I got the notification from institutes in New York and Philadelphia that the reading rooms are not available during the week of June 17. These unexpected problems really gave me a “crisis”. Should I reschedule my trip to include Drew University as my next stop? What if they do not have a lot of materials either? Would it be better if I just go back to campus and deal with what I’ve already had? …

Yale Divinity School

Yale Divinity School

I really stressed out during the first week. On the one hand, I was trying so hard to get as much as possible from the archives. I requested the materials that even seemed to have the most strenuous connection to my topic. I also went over reels of microfilm and boxes of manuscripts, hoping to find the trace of the medical activities of the Methodist Episcopal missionaries. On the other hand, I search for the archival catalog of the United Methodist Church and thought over and over how to plan my next step. Thankfully, my advisor, Professor Petty, talked to me over the phone and gave me great suggestions about my next move. This conversation eased my nerve a lot. I also took a break over the weekend and tour around New Haven a little, which helped clear my mind to think through my plan for the second week at Yale.

Sterling Memorial Library

Sterling Memorial Library

During the second week, I started to look for some secondary literature, making use of the fantastic library resources at Yale. I also shifted my focus back to the ABCFM missionaries and surprisingly found many fascinating pamphlets. I read through some Foochow Mission Board reports on microfilms, which I did not have time to read while in Boston. The microfilms also have a promising amount of materials including a large number of letters written by Kate C. Woodhull! Meanwhile, I got in touch with the staff at Drew University and the additional information they give me also convinced me to continue my research trip. Now, I have just finished my first day at Drew University and I found a great amount of interesting materials of the M. E. Mission. I’m glad that I made the right call.

a peek of New Haven from the 7th-floor stacks of Sterling Memorial Library

a peek of New Haven from the 7th-floor stacks of Sterling Memorial Library

The past two weeks fraught with crisis really helped me gain invaluable experience in planning research and made me more courageous when facing challenges. When I talked to my friend, Fay, about these troubles, she said, “If the research were to go incredibly smoothly and you found everything you want, then it is not research but reading.” I think she is quite right about this. Looking back to these two weeks, I am truly grateful for this little crisis and all the memorable experiences New Haven has offered.

Comments

  1. Emily Xu says:

    I completely agree with your friend on her perspective of challenges in research! I think some of the most rewarding moments from research stem from previous failures. I wish you the best of luck with the rest of your time exploring the primary and secondary literature!

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