Monday, June 8, 2015

"A Sure Recipe for a Delightful Time"

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to the 50th anniversary Mormon History Association conference. I filled my brain with interesting ideas and new knowledge, bought some good books, and caught up with my old boss from BYU. Most of all I just enjoyed diving back into the academic world for a couple days. You know the feeling of being around people who you identify with and who believe a lot of the same things as you and it's just fun and comfortable? (Like your family or your church, hopefully.) These were my people.... Plus, I sat next to Claudia Bushman!!! Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wandered past me in the halls! In the words of the Newcastle Relief Society sisters, (they used the phrase to describe the process of writing their RS history together) it was "A sure recipe for a delightful time!"

I may have mentioned this before, but in my short time at BYU finishing my degree, I got a job at the library and went underground to the secret archives to work on the 19th Century Mormon Article Newspaper Index. This process involved going down to the archives, filling a cart with boxes of old newspapers from the 19th century, then taking them upstairs. There I would measure each article that mentioned Mormons, type up a short synopsis and some info about it, then return it to the box, repeat., etc. I now know a lot more about the Godbeites and the Edmunds-Tucker Act than your average Joe Mormon. I confess though it was pretty slow work other than finding the occasional (fictional) serial story about evil Danites capturing innocent young maidens and trying to marry them off to creepy old polygamists.

I think my first love will always be literature, but thanks to this library experience I realize in part how much work goes into the documentation and research work of historians. A lot of the papers presented didn't have much of a point or broad application, but you could tell the presenter found something interesting, researched the heck out of it, and just wanted to share this cool thing with other people.

I don't really have time to go into the details of what I learned about, and most of the insights I gained were specific to my life and my interests. To be honest, I think the most important knowledge gained during my conference was by Austin while I was off at my classes...he revealed to me that it is impossible to get anything done when you're taking care of small children and holding a little baby all day. Who knew?