I’m in love with archives. This is why.
When I found it in the Michael Shea Papers at Buffalo State College in Buffalo, NY, I squealed audibly and clapped my white-gloved hands. It is a letter from the animal trainer Leon Morris to Mr. Shea, a vaudeville impresario in Buffalo. Before there was a developed system of agents and managers, performers booked their own gigs so it was necessary to promote themselves constantly. Hence, this stationary’s representation of Morris in formal equestrian garb bordered by striking illustrations of monkeys, dogs, and horses.
Sometimes I’m in archives and I don’t want to leave. Even when the microfilm spinning past my eyes is giving me a headache or I’ve developed “archive elbow” by turning the pages of a giant ledger for eight hours in a row. Real professionals will tell you that you need to “get in and get out” or risk becoming lost in the archive. I’m still trying to temper my passion.