As a history major delving into the past is something I do often and with vigor. However, my first experience working in an archive last week was unlike any other research I have ever done, and one of the most rewarding undertakings in my academic life. I was in London for ten days working at the University of East London’s Olympic Archive, specifically looking at their materials from the 1908 and 1948 Games in London. The research I am doing is for my Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship and senior history honors thesis.
The journey that brought me to London last week began when I first arrived at Hopkins. As a freshman, I knew I wanted to incorporate the 2012 Olympic Games into my Woodrow Wilson independent research project, and began considering what exactly it was I wanted to study. The next year, I wrote my sophomore history research paper on contentions between nationalism and internationalism at the 1908 Olympics in London – I thought the topic seemed like good preparation for my Wilson studies. Following sophomore year, I traveled to London to access how the city’s six Olympic boroughs changed because of the arrival of the 2012 Games. Junior year I realized that I wanted to expand my Wilson to include assessments of the 1908 and 1948 Games, and inspired the topic of my senior history honors thesis, which will compare the 1908 and 1948 London Games. As you can see – the wonderful thing I’ve learned about research is how it can expand and grow.
Working in the Olympic Archives last week, I was afforded access to unparalleled amounts of material. I was able to hold texts produced over a hundred years ago, read documents that aren’t available anywhere in the world and watch video clips from Games held at a much different time from ours. I had previously considered myself a pretty good researcher, but after working firsthand in an archive, I truly felt I began to become a historian.
I understand that spending hours surrounded by dusty documents, not speaking to a soul does not evoke in everyone the kind of excitement it stirred in me. However even if historical work is not your cup of tea, the important thing to take away from this blog, is that at Hopkins you will be able to find and execute the kind of research that stimulates and electrifies you like my Olympic work does for me. Research doesn’t have to be anything more than something you just plain enjoy doing. I’ve been intellectually stimulated and challenged, grown as a writer and reader, and pushed myself to be proactive and assertive in a number of different ways. It has been an experience like no other, and I look forward to beginning the remaining leg of the journey as I enter my senior year.