Report from the road: New York City, 2015

A modern struggle for anyone in the humanities is  justifying the importance of their research. The rapid progress of the hard sciences has left fields like History in a precarious position. This comes from the (misguided) opinion that everything that can be known about the past has already been discovered and all other work in it is purely academic. Some would argue, History does not cure cancer, grow the economy, or build satellites. Short of discovering the lost city of Atlantis, History does not need more students.

During the annual conference for the American Historical Association (AHA) and American Catholic Historical Association (ACHA) this past January, this idea was shown to be simply wrong. Shortly after the start of the new year, the project team of Dr. Roberts, Evan, and Zac traveled to Times Square, New York City for AHA and ACHA’s annual conference. Hundreds of historians and people interested in history gathered together from around the world to share their work.

Some of those people came to our presentation on the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project. The panel helped reinforce our confidence in the project’s legitimacy and importance to the field. In particular, legendary Jesuit historians John Padberg of Saint Louis University, and John O’Malley of Georgetown University offered praiseworthy comments and questions about collaboration with other like projects. While we have given this presentation previously, the opportunity to do so before such accomplished and decorated historians made it seem as though our project was contributing something very valuable to the larger historical community.

Much of our work requires long hours alone with original library books and computers. Often when we are collaborating with others, its through the means of social media. The conference provided an exciting opportunity to bring the fruits of our endeavors to the larger academic community on a personal level.

As we move towards finishing gathering and photographing the remainder of the original books from St Ignatius College, the experience of presenting our research in a global city surrounded by a community of scholars was gratifying — a much-welcomed bridge between us and the larger academic world.

– Zachary Davis and Evan Thompson, JLPP Intern

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