I recently jumped down the research rabbit hole and ended up in Albany, New York, at the New York State Archives. I’ll get into the specifics of that adventure a bit later, but first — ARCHIVES FIELD TRIP!!!
Established in 1971 and officially open for business in 1978, the New York State Archives is the repository for the state government’s archival records and historic documents detailing the story of New York. The 11th floor hosts the Archives and the New York State Library’s special collections.
The lobby displays facsimiles of the collection’s greatest hits, highlighting the literal breadth and figurative wealth of New York’s history and heritage.
Walls panels near the reception desk, where researchers sign in prior to hunkering down and hunching over the historic records of their choice, provide a sort of timeline for the types of materials stored behind the surrounding walls.
Visitors get a locker to place… pretty much everything in. The only pockets you’re allowed to bring into the archives are the ones in your pants and shirt. Though you can bring in paper, nothing that can hide paper is allowed in (no folders and the like). You are allowed to bring in electronics.
Pro tip: picture taking is recommended! Bring your iPhone, take lots of pics, and save yourself the hassle of photocopying. Researchers work in a large glass-walled room. Every work station has power outlets and there is wifi. It is cold in there, so wear layers and warm socks.
Request your desired materials in advance and the archives staff will set them aside for you. Upon arrival at your reserved work table, they’ll wheel it out and leave you alone. As you can see in the photo above, the boxes are barcoded. If I worked there I’d make “pew pew pew” sounds every time I used the scanner.
I didn’t get a good picture of my favorite part of the Archives: a supply station with everything one might need when working with archival records. Nitrile gloves and white cotton gloves (with containers for used ones!); book supports, page turners, huge magnifying lenses; paper scraps, paper strips, pencils. Kudos, New York State Archives staff for making your researchers feel welcome.
And now a trip to the New York State Library on the seventh floor!!
Did you ever wonder where all those lovely book jackets go while their accompanying texts sit naked in the stacks?
They get put on display, of course! Manmade New York history book jackets on the left, natural history book jackets on the right.
Not much circulating in the circulation area during my visit.
The photocopier, scanner, and microfilm area was also dead and dark. Because who wants to spend their one free Saturday away from the kids doing research on legal and legislative stuff from the 1960s?
Yes, folks. This is what I consider a fun day away from the kids: hopping on a bus at 5 in the morning, a train at 6, another train at 7, a trip to Albany, and several hours sitting in front of old records, topped off by a quick tour of a library. An then getting back on the train before plopping down on the floor of the Port Authority (eew) to wait for another bus to go home.
And it made for a great field trip.
Speaking of trip…
… I took this photo of the New York State Plaza from the Library’s stacks while stumbling over my own feet.