Are You A Researcher?

The answer is probably yes. 

This week, I finished transcribing the oral history interview I started last week. (I probably went over on my allotted hours in doing so, but I really wanted to finish the majority of this project before I had to start working on my final assignments for my other courses.)

            After listening to the rest of the interview (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I pasted the transcription into Word so I could review my spelling and grammatical errors. (To be honest, there were a lot of them.) I also highlighted all of the words I didn’t know how to spell(which I usually labeled “sp?”) or the words I hadn’t heard (which were marked by “[inaudible]”)

            One thing that became painfully obvious as I read through the script checking for these errors was how flat words become on a page. As a blogger, I often forget this – I hear my posts in my own voice. But when you’re reading an interview, especially one you’ve heard before, the voices don’t come alive as much. The words and inflections don’t come across the same way that the two women of the interview spoke. You miss out on reading all the pauses and “ums” that frequented the conversation. Laughing doesn’t seem as exciting when you only see [laughing] on a page. And let me tell you – these women laughed a lot.

            That’s what made this interview so much fun. The two ladies, who are volunteers of the Whaling National Historical Park, truly enjoy all the hard work they have done for the projects, themselves, and the history they present. In their investigations into the Pacific Islanders’ involvement in whaling, they have truly made great strides for the community. When they realized that such information was not readily available to the public, they quickly took it upon themselves to research the stories of the Hawaiian people.

            It seems like these ladies have accomplished so much in their travels – even visiting various archives of Maui and Honolulu directly. And better yet, they enjoy themselves throughout the entire research process. Though they had to be reminded that truly are researchers, they more importantly see themselves as the teachers they once were. Their goal in discovering these stories is to be able to plant a seed and make the connections that many have forgotten. Hearing them say that was truly inspirational. Because that’s what researchers are ultimately out to do – find information to plant the seed. It’s not just experience or a greater understanding of the area in context of American history. It’s about what this information can do – how it can tell the stories of people long forgotten in order to make them long remembered.  That’s one of the hats every researcher has to wear, reminding themselves why they do what they do. It’s not the money or the credit or the personal benefit, but the public and benefit the information can provide. And we should enjoy each and every step of it – it’s not always a methodical process and it can take some twists and turns. But at the end of the day, that’s part of the job – being able to make these steps lead to something greater and something amazing. 

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