Charleston Recommendations

During my two-week stay in Charleston, I would spent the workday in Addlestone Library and then departed each evening to explore the city. Although I tried some of the more well-known restaurants--Xiao Bao BiscuitBar at HuskLeon's--and checked out popular tourist sites like the waterfront park and the market, my favorite places, foods, and experiences were more quotidian. For any scholars who have the distinct pleasure of conducting research in Special Collections at the College of Charleston, these are my recommendations for sustenance, libations, caffeination, and a bit of exercise.

Caviar and Bananas: Charleston's version of Dean and Deluca. You can get coffee, pastries, deli items, salads, sushi, charcuterie, fancy specialty foods, wine, and beer. I ate lunch there almost every day, and although I tried many different items I kept going back to the Baja Salad.

Westbrook Brewing Co. Gose: After tasting this beer on one of my first evenings in the city, I discovered that this was my sister's favorite beer! That's saying something, since my sister works in the craft beer industry. Since Westbrook does not distribute to Pennsylvania, I had to drink my fill before I left...

Caw Caw Interpretive Center Early Morning Bird Walk: On Saturday morning, my mom and I drove out to this former rice plantation for a guide-led birding expedition. For $10 each, we borrowed excellent Nikon binoculars, through which we spotted bald eagles, egrets, herons, phoebes, yellow-rump warblers, pied-billed grebes, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and many other wetland birds. I could not recommend this experience more highly, but wear bug spray. With DEET. 

Black Tap Coffee: This was the best spot I found for a few hours of work outside the library. This small neighborhood shop pours an excellent cup of coffee and has ample outlets, free wifi, and bright sunny windows. 

Queen Street Grocery: One of the most charming things about the area around College of Charleston were the corner groceries. Queen Street Grocery was the closest one to the house where I stayed, and I enjoyed grabbing a beer (the Gose, obviously) and salad to eat there or take-out. 

Colonial Lake: With all the eating and drinking I was doing, I made sure to do plenty of walking every evening. My best walks were around Colonial Lake, where I joined many neighborhood residents who were out exercising their dogs, catching up with friends, and enjoying the sunsets while getting in an evening workout.

Research Trip Recap

My ten-day visit to the Center for Jewish History was incredibly productive. Despite being in New York for two weeks, time felt limited and I took the "smash-and grab" approach to archival research. I know I generally grabbed photos of relevant and valuable documents, but it will take me a few weeks to read through them all in detail and see if my first impressions were correct.

I photographed around 1500 pages of Annual Agency Budget Files from the records of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (UJA-Federation). This humongous collection was just recently processed, and I'm one of the first historians to go through and see how JCCs like the Y of Washington Heights Inwood, Educational Alliance, and Bronx House negotiated annually with the Federation's Distribution Committee. This process was highly regimented throughout the 1950s and '60s. Executive secretaries (god bless them) saved all the important paperwork related to the application, including agencies' initial budget proposals, the Distribution Committee's announcements of annual allocations, and thorough accounting worksheets for each fiscal year. These files are thus a great way to ascertain the health of each individual agency throughout the tumultuous years of the urban crisis, because they report figures like: membership numbers; income from dues; number and kind of programs offered; number of full- and part-time staff; and size and condition of facilities. 

While incredibly rich, these budget materials are also dense and tedious. I am going to have to give myself a crash course in accounting, which is a foreign language to me. I've always been better at spending money than keeping track of it! Ideally, the experience will familiarize me with organizational budgeting, which is a useful skill to have. 

I'll end with a pitch for the American Jewish Historical Society archivists' excellent blog, This Can Go Back to the Archives, which chronicles the processing of the UJA-Federation records. Susan and her team highlight some of the most dynamic and intriguing documents from the collection, and I'm always surprised by what they dig up!

Step 2

After what feels like creating a million new PDFs, it's important to double check your notes from each collection you viewed in the archive. Make sure you have a file or photocopy for each document that you recorded photographing or copying in your notes. It's better to realize that something is missing right after your research trip, because with fresh memory you might recall if your notes are in error. If this does not seem to be the case, I recommend checking the documents before and after the missing one--sometimes photos seem to be part of the same set rather than two separate items and so you accidentally stick them together in one PDF. 

Re-reading archival notes right after a research trip is akin to having to edit a paper immediately after writing it. It's utter torture and requires superhuman willpower to slowly move your eyes from line to line. It is, however, the best way to get an A (at least for effort).