me in the Land of Lincoln

me in the Land of Lincoln
my alleged work face

my work desk

my work desk
my junky work desk where I do my research at the office

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Week 6

Illinois Reigional Archives Depository at the University of Illinois at Springfield

Stuffed chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans from Cafe Brio

Jane Pellum, an African American woman who worked for Abraham Lincoln

Ok, time is really starting to wind down. I have really been here for a month and a half! I'm adjusting to the pace of this city and not feel so much like a stranger. Enough analysis/observation/pondering. Here's this week's blog.

Monday - Why am I here again? Oh yeah, to do research. "They tried to make me go do research, I said, no, no, no." Sorry. Listening to Amy Winehouse. I find a song I like, put it on repeat and work through my day. Each day, different song, depending on my mood. Imeem has become my new online distraction. I'll think of a song, find it, and add it to my play list. Found some classic Mahalia Jackson, Otis Redding, and Dave Matthews Band. Sixteen Tons (BB King version) is at the top of the list. Oh, and updating my NPR podcasts. I know, a nerd. I am a member of the tweed club. But I make it look fashionable with the right accessories. Ok, enough about that. I finally decided to get another multipurpose phone. It's not exactly like my previous one, but it works just the same. I can still work on office documents, send mass texts, etc. It looks like a blackberry only designed for Microsoft. So I call it my fake crackberry. The thing can be addictive. Not to mention, I am able to use my bluetooth again, I am quite thrilled. I'll stop salivating and mention it no more. Left the office. Josh and I decided to go to a minor league baseball game. I figured, why not? Something new to add to the Springfield adventures. Not to mention, the first 500 people got cash ranging from $1 to $20. Tickets were only $5, so it seemed like it would be a decent return. I got $1. What in the world was I supposed to do with $1? I think that only 15 envelopes had amounts of more than $1. Just a theory. So, we go to the game and it is BORING! I haven't been to a baseball game since I was in the 7th grade. That was to sit behind home plate and behold the backside of "Pudge" Rodriguez. Enough about that. Back to this game. The $6 tickets were in the "good" section. We sat on the 3rd row in between 3rd and home and it included waitstaff service. The girl was precious and all, but I ended up making my own trip to the concession stand instead of waiting on her to take my order. I had my new phone. I emailed myself my power point presentation and manuscript for my research. I was working on that, browsing the web, and testing the camera on my phone. I occasionally watched the game. I was truly that bored. Josh on the other hand was enjoying the game and brought his professional camera to capture the moments. We left in the middle of the 7th inning. I came home, settled in and prepared myself for the next day.

Tuesday - Another fun filled day of research at the Lincoln Presidential Library. Actually touching documents written by people over 170 years ago was beyond words. I was able to touch documents that put African American men and women into an indentured servant contract that outlined what they would learn, their restrictions, and what was promised at the time of manumission. As usual, I was brought to tears and realized that because they did, I can. I am able to have opportunities that my foreparents didn't have. I had to fix my face because I refused to have the archive staff beat me for damaging historical documents and ban me from the Lincoln Presidential Library for life. They commended me for taking breaks and leaving at a reasonable hour. I walked back to my office, made some editions to my notes and manuscript in preparation for my meeting with the state historian. I came home, settled in, and prepared myself for the next day.

Wednesday - Today was cemetery day. Took the G Ride out. Josh tagged along, with his professional camera, of course. I was armed with his smaller digital camera. We made it out to the first cemetery. It was a small catholic cemetery. i chatted with the secretary. She was so helpful. The purpose of cemetery day was to find the graves of some of the women included in my research, to make them personable. I've located marriage records, announcements in local papers and obituaries. Everyone can identify with items like that. These things help tell the story, which is my job. Anyhow, we take pictures. I think my pics are fine, but Josh has to bring tripods and extra memory cards and lenses. It don't take all that! Just take the picture and leave it at that. We head back to the cemetery office to thank the lady for her help. He's in there going through records, asking questions that are not relevant to our purpose for the day. I just wanted to push him down! But that would mean I'd have to explain to people at the park why his face is looking funny and I know no one can send bail money, let alone come to Springfield to come and get me. We go out to the big cemetery, where Lincoln is buried. After getting copies of burial records and a map with a planned route, we set out to find the two other women I am looking for. I give Josh the map so he can help. he gets us lost. We finally make it to one of the grave sites. It is quite steep. I have on an olive shirt, khaki gauchos, and white loafers. The hills at this cemetery are steep! I'm afraid to drop anything because I know that would be a hillside tumble waiting to happen. I finally get over that and take the pictures I need. Josh takes pictures also. We get back in the G ride and drive to the colored section of the cemetery. I find the grave of William Donnegan, the first casualty of the Springfield Race Riots of 1908. I also found graves of other important blacks in Springfield. It was interesting because the Jewish were buried in the same area. I finally found the grave I was looking for. I took some photos. As I was leaving, the maintenance staff was passing by. They asked me if I needed any help. I told them no. They asked why I was out there. I told them why and that one of Lincoln's hired servants was buried there. They said that they didn't know that tidbit of information. It felt good to give knowledge. We left the cemetery and went to UIS. I was able to locate another marriage certificate. As we were leaving UIS, the gas light came on. I called the admin office back at the Lincoln home. I filled up the gas tank and returned back to the office. I came home for a few minutes before Josh and I went to a lecture regarding a city called New Philadelphia, which was founded and established by Frank McWhorter, an African American. The lecture was at the holding of the state archives. After going through a maze of long hallways filled with boxes full of artifacts, finally made it to the location of the lecture. I learned about the archaeological process that takes place before a dig starts. It was enlightening. I chatted with the interns. They advised me of some interesting things that they discovered. Josh and I finally left. I came home, settled in, and prepared myself for the next day.

Thursday - I spend my morning trying to reduce my anxiety. I had a meeting with the state historian. Everyone told me that I had nothing to worry about. I finally left the office and walked towards the state capital. With my phone, I listened to NPR on my walk. It was nice. I missed that about my phone's absence. I finally made it to the state archives for my meeting with Dr. Wayne Temple. After another security check, I was finally allowed to get on the elevator and go to his office. I finally get there. He says that he has been waiting to meet me. People talk around here. So, I get settled and he asks me general info such as where I'm from, school, etc. After the small talk, I hand him my manuscript. I also hand him my notes. He studies it for a moment and says that there were some names that I left off. He proceeds to advise me about the research he has done. he gives me an autographed copy of the article he has done for the Abraham Lincoln Association. He is a joy to chat with. We discuss the grandeur of Lincoln. He tells me that he has been researching Lincoln since 1949. Every Lincoln book that has come out since then has been seen, reviewed, or edited by him. So, I feel a little small at this point. He tells me of the small things about Lincoln. He tells me stories of Lincoln's interaction with African Americans. I nod and smile politely. We talk about the Emancipation Proclamation and the varying views on it. After 2 or 3 hours of chatting, we discuss his life. I learned that he is a 4 star general. He knew Eisenhower. He gives me advice about graduate school. He said to go to the graduate school where you feel comfortable and where you will do well. After he offered me candy, I head back to my office to review what he said about my manuscript. I head home for a few minutes. There was a lecture about Mary Lincoln by another Lincoln historian. Josh and I walk to to the Presidential Museum. The lecture was ok. The question and answer period is where I finally decided to speak up. I asked her to elaborate on the relationship that Mary Lincoln had with her hired help and why there is strife with only the Irish. I also asked what were her thoughts on why the African American hired help were trusted more by her. She paused and said I asked a good question. (of course, I asked a great question or I would have kept my mouth shut, duh!) She rambled about how Mary Lincoln was Scottish and Irish. She gave me a suggestion of a book to read, which was pointless because it covered Lincoln's hired help in the white house, not in Springfield, where I'm doing research. Anyhow, she said that she would love to see more insight into the hired help relationship in Springfield. Basically, she didn't answer my question. My other mom told me after the lecture that I did a good job and sounded scholarly. That made me feel wonderful. There are days when it seems like I'm not a historian. I don't look or act like other history majors that I see around here. But I'm told that I always have a passion for it and it shows. I guess that is my advantage. I just hope it remains for the rest of my academic career. Josh and I go to dinner at a restaurant called Cafe Brio. The herb crusted stuffed chicken breast was great, along with the mashed potatoes and green beans. We talked over dinner about our projects for the Lincoln home. We finally left. I came home, settled in, and prepared myself for the next day.

Friday - This morning was a staff meeting with everyone in the park. I was told earlier in the week that I needed to create a 5 minute presentation to talk about my research. I sent the power point presentation to a couple of friends to review. They weighed in with their commentary. Dressed in a nice dress shirt and slacks, I left home to come to the office to get my work machine to do my presentation. As I'm walking up the steps to the meeting, I lose my footing and fall on my face. Purse goes in one direction, and the work laptop in another direction. Who is behind me but the Superintendent of the park. I felt so embarrassed. He asked if I was ok. I told him that is why there are safety signs in the park and why the safety message is played at the beginning of the film at the visitor center. After recovering, I finally make it into the meeting. This meeting was longer than normal. I finally get up to give my presentation. I give basic facts and 3 women that worked in the Lincoln home and a few brief facts about them. The information was well received. I felt partially accomplished. After the presentation, people kept telling me that I did a great job on my presentation. I heard that some of the information was being used in the ranger led tours immediately. It is nice to know that your work will be used to tell the story of Lincoln. That information sticks. The information makes the story real. Whether it is a family that may have recently immigrated to the US, a young girl, or anyone else. They can identify with the women in my research. It rained that afternoon. It seems like a constant. Almost every Friday since I've been here, it has rained. It cleared up. The park was preparing for a movie night. Nikia, Myles, and I grabbed a bite before the movie. We arrived at the park. The crew was waiting for the final weather report to determine if the movie would be cancelled. At 7:45, the movie was cancelled. I stood around and talked with the park rangers who were scheduled to work. I took an after hours tour of the Lincoln home. It was a decent evening. I came home, settled in, and prepared to enjoy my weekend.

Saturday - Made myself some breakfast and enjoyed a morning in bed. I know I will miss Saturday morning solace once I return back home. Josh called and asked if I felt like walking around town. We went to a bookstore called Prairie Archives. It is basically like a Half Price books except it was larger and an independent store. NPR was blaring over the loudspeaker. I was quite the happy camper. I found a few too many books that I like, nothing unusual. I left with my purchases and walked to a store called Shoetopia. The decor was nice. I think I could have stayed in there all day. But downtown stores close around 3 PM on Saturday afternoons. I honestly think the sidewalks roll up at dusk every day. The sky was looking a bit cloudy. So I managed to make it back home before it started pouring. I spent the evening indoors. Cooked dinner, settled in and enjoyed the rest of the night.

Sunday - Ah yes, worship at Abundant Faith. This week, I went into service alone. I felt like I was just a regular member. It was nice. The fine arts ministry did a great job. The performance was spoken word and dance. The entire ensemble was related to each other. They were so synchronized. The message was about freedom in worship and freedom to walk in the gifts given. It was absolutely wonderful. The word, given by the pastor's wife was equally excellent. For a brief moment, I felt like I was a resident in Springfield, going to church like I normally would. I came home and started watching a history documentary. I dozed off when Josh called to remind me of the dinner and golf outing. So, I packed up a book I bought yesterday and went. We had dinner at Cici's and went to miniature golf. I try not to be antisocial. The rangers talk about park business and I just sit there and answer questions about my project. I watched everyone play mini golf. I really need to start doing more things and being a little more sociable. That is on my to do list for Houston. We finally left a couple of hours later. I came home, settled in, and prepared myself for the week.

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