Since last spring, I’ve been adhering to a strict diet: I can give my research the fuel it needs to keep going, but with research libraries closed, there’s little variety. I miss archival indulgences—the little things librarians bring you that you didn't know you wanted—the most. In Memphis, a specialist brought me the 1890s school catalogs I’d come to see, along with a letter that a government official sent to Coretta Scott King, apologizing for sending her the bill for municipal services in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination.
I know librarians, the patron saints of collective knowledge, miss giving us these gifts, too. So, last week on Twitter, I put out a call: If you’re in the archives, I want to hear from you. I didn’t offer any additional details. Many assumed I was writing an article about being back at work, while others, I’m proud to report, thought I was writing the librarian fan fic I’ve threatened to devote my retirement to. The reality was a little more Miranda July.
Rosemary K. J. Davis, the Accessioning Archivist for the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, responded to my call. I asked her to give me her personal phone number and agree to respond to my texts during the work day, unsure of what would come. A glimpse of a world unknown to others? A few cool visuals?
Rosemary, who sent me a photo of a crocheted uterus that a fan knitted for Judy Blume, turned out to be the perfect collaborator. This is the conversation we had last Tuesday.