One of the things about having students in to do research is that we often don’t get to see what becomes of the research they do. That’s not really a complaint, by the way, it’s just the way things go. Back when I was a university student, by the time I finished a research project, I was done with it and never wanted to see it again, much less show it off to others. This is Arlene, if you’re wondering.
But recently, this changed for us. This semester, Professor Paul White of the Anthropology Dept, came to us and asked if he could have his students in A482, Historical Archaeology, do a project with archival records. Of course we said Yes! (We might have even shouted it, a little. We love it when students do research with us.) The collection he chose was the Alaska Pacific Consolidated Mining Company records. APCMC ran a variety of mines in the Hatcher Pass area, the best known of which is Independence Mine. So a variety of sections of records within the collection were selected, and the students were asked to do a variety of projects with those records, culminating in a term paper talking about the results of their research. Here’s the best bit: Dr. White was kind enough to invite us to see the progress reports given by the students to the class. And yesterday was one of those days.
I have to tell you, you have never seen a bunch of more energized archivists as when we’ve come back from those presentations. Seeing what the students do, where they went with the records, how their research interacted and intersected with other students in the class: it’s inspirational for us reference-providing types. Not to mention educational: we learn more about how people can make use of records than we could possibly ever come up with on our own. Which means that we provide better reference access to archival collections in future.
I’d like to share one with you, mainly because the moment the student presented the graphic in class, I was diving for my purse for my camera. Turns out, my battery was dead, but the student, Penny Bradley, agreed to drop by the Archives later this week and let me get a picture of it. But before I show it to you (am I good at tantalizing, or what?) I want to tell you about her project. She and another student were going through the accident reports dating from about 1938 to 1943 and creating a database of incidents. What Penny chose to focus on for her paper was where the miner was most likely to be injured–not location in the mine, but location on the body. And she decided that the best visual way to show this was to draw a man with the sections of his body color coded for frequency of incidents. Okay, now I’ll show you.
This is Independence Mine Accident Man. That’s what Penny told me his official name was, when I asked if she’d named him. And the main reason I was asking was that she’d just told me she wasn’t planning to do anything with him, he’d probably just end up buried in her closet and eventually disappear, and so I took my opportunity and asked her if I (we) could have him. She agreed, kindly not with a hint of “humoring the insane woman at the Archives,” and we’ve now adopted Independence Mine Accident Man (IMA Man, for short.) He’s been framed and will be hanging on the wall in our processing area just as soon as I have time to go borrow a hammer.
The real reason I wanted IMA Man (aside from his obvious charm) is that he’s an excellent teaching tool: a representation of what archival records can become, how they can be used. I’m thinking he’ll be a centerpiece of any instruction sessions we do with the Public Health courses, for one.
We’ll be checking to see if any of the other students are willing to share the products of their research and maybe allow us to share them with the rest of you, too.
And in the meantime, IMA Man is hanging out with us. He’s not in a public area of the Archives, but we’re still willing to share. If you’d like to see him, please ask one of the archivists and we’ll be happy to escort you into his new home so you can meet him too. And, of course, you’re always welcome to look at the APCMC records too, but it’s a pretty sizable collection so you might just want to follow that link above and see if there’s anything specific in the collection that particularly appeals to you.