An Update: What Am I Working On?

Ack! So many new things happening (and it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything) – where should I start?

At the Whaling Museum, I’ve almost completed three new projects. First, I finished the Delano Family Papers, which informed me of the ancestors of FDR and their business in Fairhaven. The collection studied three generations of the family, and though a lot is well-known about the earliest (Phillipe Delanoye) and FDR’s grandfather (Warren Delano II), not much is present about the people in between. (Well, that is, until you read this collection.) Most of what I read were business dealings (the Delanos were important in the Fairhaven trading business.)

The best part about this was that someone actually came to the library to use the collection I had organized! It seemed cool that only a few weeks before, it would’ve been impossible for a researcher to do that. And as a side note: if you’re looking for broader information about the Delano family, I suggest you check out delanopaperproject, a tumblr of someone researching at the FDR Presidential Library. The anecdotes of the Delano family range from funny to serious, so I’m sure you’ll find some interesting tidbits.

The next collection was the David A. Henderson collection. This monstrosity of a collection was over 17 linear feet in extent – thankfully, I did not have to actually look at all those boxes. Instead, I was tasked with organizing the finding aid.

Henderson was scholar-in-residence at the Museum from the late seventies to the early nineties, and he specialized in Pacific whaling, specifically in the Okhotsk Sea. His collection contains a little bit of everything, though. While the inventory was very well organized, it was my job to structure it into a finding aid  – easier said than done. Most of this project just involved formatting – so while it wasn’t as interesting as some of my previous work, it helped me hone the basic skills of XML and finding aid creation.

And now, I’m just finishing the Howland family papers, which details the lives of Matthew, Rachel, and Matthew Morris Howland, a prominent Quaker whaling family. The librarian had done some preliminary organizing of the collection, but for the most part, I was on my own to completely reorganize and make an inventory.

I loved this collection because unlike the others, almost all of the collection was made up of correspondence. The first section of the collection is devoted to Matthew’s letters to Rachel during what appears to be their courtship. It seemed strange that something such as his love letters would be such an integral part of the collection – but indeed, it is. The letters span almost two years of correspondence, discussing Matthew’s life and career as he rises through New Bedford society in contrast with the change in their relationship from platonic to romantic.

The second subseries, Matthew to his son, Morris, focused more on the Howland business. After attending Brown University, Morris moved out to California (a move which had his father worried, for his son might succumb to the sins of the West.) From there, Morris managed the Pacific end of the whaling business. Through the letters, I learned more about the success and decline of the Howland’s business, as well as how Matthew wanted to pass on the legacy of the family name to his children. I’ll be writing a blog post on this collection for the Whaling Museum later this week, so keep an eye out.

I’m not sure what my next collection will be just yet – I still have to finish encoding the Howland collection and post it on the website – but I’m certainly enjoying this work in the archives. 

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