Broke Down in Struggle Town

For those readers who have been following my Youtube channel, you know my work doesn’t always go as smoothly, or in the direction I anticipated. Choosing a research project can be like picking a car from the lemon lot. What’s a historian to do when she finds herself broke down in Struggle Town? Ask for help from a professor, maybe even quit one project and pick up another, but never, under any circumstances should she kick her car’s tires.  

This week my professor gave the class a few tips to help us get Struggle Town in the rear-view mirror. As with most suggestions, there were a few ideas that had already been tried, and there were a few fresh ideas. 

Although I had looked at Chronicling America, the Library of Congress’ digital newpaper collection, I hadn’t found anything. My professor suggested using the “Advanced Search” option. After a few attempts I got a hit. An article about a few soldiers drowning in a ferry accident. I tried to find more, changed my keywords based on the article I had found, and nothing. But I had one more article than I had before, so I took it and put the car in gear. 

The next tip took me to the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation. I used the sight’s WISAARD in an attempt to track down additional information about St. Paul’s Mission. I went with level one access because it didn’t require a password. As I typed in the search window it automatically populated the drop-down with options. I was excited when the mission I wanted came up. I pressed “enter” and a dot appeared on the screens map. I clicked on the dot, “no information available” came up in a small box. That didn’t make any sense. I’d read an archaeological report from the mission. Why wasn’t that information on the site? Time to level up. What access would level two grant me? Turns out I didn’t meet any of the requirements to get a password. Not even as an “academic researcher.” The three-page user agreement said, “DAHP requires the User to submit vita and copy of Graduate diploma or transcripts documenting User meets these standards. Theses, dissertations and/or peer reviewed journal articles can demonstrate research. DAHP reserves the right to request additional supporting information.” I started to feel like I couldn’t get the car in second gear. With agreements like the one above, shouldn’t there be more people in Struggle Town? 

There was still one tip left on my professor’s list. The National Register of Historic Places. After a few attemps, I had a hit. But, the record was not digitized. The Metadata indicated that it was the mission I’d been looking for. The information is out there. Somewhere. There was a renewed sense of hope.

So Struggle Town wasn’t disappearing from view with each keystroke but I had information I didn’t have before my professor’s help. I’m not ready to move on from these projects, but that option remains on the table. Why? Because I’ve got a deadline to meet and if this car isn’t going to get me out of Struggle Town, then I might have to walk. 


2 thoughts on “Broke Down in Struggle Town”

  1. I really want to hear this blog post as a country song. 😉 That’s crazy that the DAHP wants so much background material before they’ll give someone access. Haven’t they seen the rest of the internet? Glad you had some luck with other sources. And you’re definitely not the only one stuck in first gear. Looking forward to sharing notes on drafts this week.

  2. I love that you wrote your frustrations in this format. Makes for an entertaining read although I’m sorry about the difficulty you’re having with a few of these topics. I am a bit shocked at the DAHP, a three page user agreement is very bizarre. Maybe we could get some clarification as to why this is such a protected database in class


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