No, I’m not talking about my upcoming 65th birthday. Come to think of it, however, I am grateful for Medicare.
I’m talking about an ancient piece of research history, my 1993 M.A. Thesis in art history, titled Three Public Buildings in St. Joseph, Missouri, 1873-1891.
That’s the Buchanan County Courthouse above, one of my three chosen buildings which, within a roughly 20-year period, proudly proclaimed St. Joseph’s “golden age.” I decided to venture into my past and to resurrect my thesis, which survives only in one bound photocopied version, with indistinct illustrations. In case you’re wondering, most theses and dissertations have only been stored in digital format since about 1995; mine is stored in the UMKC library in its original, archival-quality paper format.
Long story short, I have now scanned all 151 pages, put them through OCR software to be saved in an editable Word format, and laboriously proofread and corrected the document manually. The process took two weeks, and was good occupational therapy during COVID-19 lock-down. While I was at it, I sourced new illustrations from the internet, replacing my old, worn, badly-photocopied ones.
Above is the 1873-74 St. Joseph City Hall and Market House, a rather self-important-looking building that was unceremoniously knocked down in 1929.
My slightly altered body of research has now been uploaded to www.academia.edu. Speaking of the digital world, I was amazed to discover how much historic research material is now available online. Many of my original sources, requiring trips to libraries, interlibrary loans, and scanning fragile microfilm, are now available online, searchable and downloadable at the touch of a button. Printed sources dating back to 1873 can now be found on Archive.org and HathiTrust, as well as Library of Congress archives. How extraordinary, then to find something like this:
It’s a promotional booklet for St. Joseph produced about 1901, formerly available in crumbling copies in locked cabinets of local reference rooms, now digitized for anyone to see. Or how about this, a local newspaper article from 1873 available (for a fee) from a newspaper archive site?
That’s amazing. Now that I’m all fired up about architectural research, I plan to do some more digging online, and expand sections of my thesis in future blog posts.
Just thought I’d share that with you.