Saturday, July 30, 2005

John Robertson reports on research in Illinois, including "archival brownies"

Regarding Dr. Sherman's suggestion that we share vacation anecdotes, I have one. After intense double stressing over selling my and Marcel's house there in Memphis and finally completing it, and preparing for comps, I went to visit my working-class relatives, mainly my first cousin/surrogate sister, in Illinois. The east Alton area was, in the 1950s, the only industrialized area in Southern Illinois - the "other" Illinois; hill country with a large concentration of second- and third-generation transplanted Illinois rurals, many of whom have, as my cousin, Southern ancestry.

The area is, for one thing, important for religious groups that three of us are studying. I was privileged to interview a key denominational historian for one of the denominations. This man has the status of a retired member of the papal curia within that organization. This particular group is a bit gun-shy over their treatment in the hands of some not-too-complimentary historians, and they are very guarded with access to their archives. The interview went very well, but what was more important, I think, was the establishment of an amicable relationship with the religious official's secretary and the other women on the staff there. In an effort to consolidate the good relations, at the suggestion of my cousin, I took the secretaries some fresh-baked brownies. Those brownies, and similar gestures, may be the most important component of my vacation.

Dr. Benin has repeatedly suggested that administration in large institutions should be left entirely up to the secretaries. They are, after all, the ones who actually know things.

By the way, Amanda and Karen like sugar-free Planter's turtles and low-carb ice cream.

John Robertson


Post a Comment

<< Home