Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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If you've been reading this blog for the past few months, you've no doubt noticed my repeated mentions of two research volunteers -- Samantha Bulgerin and Catherine Bloomquist. They're both much, much better researchers than I am, and it's no exaggeration to say that the latest phase of the Permanent Record project would not have been possible without them.

So today I'm giving Sam (that's her at the top of the page) and Cate (that's her beneath Sam) a well-deserved shout-out. I've also been wondering what inspired them to devote so much time and energy to my little project, so I invited them both to write a little something about that, and they both agreed. First up is Sam:

I’m a twenty-something college student in Wisconsin, studying anthropology and information studies. My father was an ancient history major, so I grew up in a house full of old books and artifacts. When I was about 12 or so, my grandmother introduced me to genealogy and I became fascinated by old records and what people leave behind. I started buying old photographs at rummage sales and trying to track down the people in them, wanting to know their stories. Letters, diaries, newspapers, and yearbooks soon joined the photographs. I also work at a local historical society and run two history-based blogs (one of which is about vintage fashion, which is a good fit with all the dressmaking students whose report cards Paul found; the other is about old newspaper clippings and such), so it would be fair to say I'm very interested in the past.

I came across Permanent Record randomly, shortly after Paul had written his first articles for Slate last fall. When I saw his request for research help, I got very excited, so I got in touch with him and have been helping out with the project when time allows.

I cannot put into words how amazing it is to see my research help Paul uncover the stories of these extraordinary women. The Permanent Record project, to me, is a perfect example of how history isn’t just battles and names and dates -- it’s people. People who lived full and fascinating lives. People who deserve to be remembered.

Thanks, Sam. I literally couldn't do this without you!

Now here's Cate:

I owe my introduction to Permanent Record to my brother, who read the series on Slate and thought I would enjoy it. He was right! New York City immigrant culture of the early 1900s has always fascinated me, so these students' stories really spoke to me.

I wanted to help with the project because I love the idea of connecting these report cards to the students' families. And since I have a background in professional genealogical research/heir-searching (particularly NYC research), I felt I had some specific skills to offer. Discovering "Miss Kotter's" identity has been the biggest thrill so far, and I hope we'll hear more about her. Thanks for letting me be part of Permanent Record!

Thank you, Cate -- you and Sam are the best.

Seriously, at the risk of getting too sappy here, Sam and Cate exemplify the incredible generosity of spirit that I've encountered throughout the Permanent Record project. That applies to the families I've interviewed, the historians who've helped me connect the various dots, and the many readers who've chimed in with observations and tips along the way. I'm grateful all these people -- but especially to Sam and Cate. I hope I get to meet them in person one day. First round will definitely be on me.

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Slate update: Been wondering when the next full-length PermaRec article would finally appear on Slate? I'm happy to report that the article has finally been put into the editorial pipeline and is now scheduled to be published either later this week or early next.

My editor says he wants to run additional PermaRec articles on Slate roughly every month, so I should finally be able to start telling the full stories that I've only hinted at here on the blog. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I'm starting a Permanent Record e-mail list, which I'll use to let people know about new Slate articles and other new developments regarding the project. (Don't worry, I won't be sending out daily spam or anything like that.) If you'd like to be added to the list, contact me.

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