A brief 2015 round-up

A brief 2015 round-up

In Whites Writing Whiteness terms, 2015 went something like this:

A heat wave and fog in Cape Town, combined with a terrible chest infection and paralysing cough, accompanied six weeks of intensive research on the Schreiner-Hemming letters. These are in manuscripts and archives at the University of Cape Town, in the beautifully restored Jagger library. Then….

There was a heat wave followed by torrential rain followed by water outage followed by electricity outage in then freezing cold and certainly very grubby Grahamstown. This was during three concentrated weeks working on the Pringle letters in the Cory library. Then…

Then we had a week in Bloemfontein, where I am an Extraordinarily Professor through my attachment to the University of the Free State.  This was great because I got to meet a number of extremely interesting and very vocal Masters and PhD students, as well as my dear friend Professor Jan Coetzee. While there I gave a number of seminar presentations, which gave me the chance to try out some ideas developed over the course of the previous research in Cape Town and Grahamstown.

This was then followed by gorgeous temperatures with everything working really well during three weeks of blissful 8am to 4.30pm work on the Forbes paper in the National Archives of South Africa in Pretoria. The Forbes! How deeply enthralling I find this collection! And then…

And then during May to September, I spent six days a week working on cleaning data files from all of the above research, usually starting at about 6 AM and always finishing on the dot at 6 PM each day, with an hour break for heavy-duty gardening from 11 to 12 midday. This ‘cleaning’ involved making sure names are spelt consistently throughout, that dates are all present and correct, and that all other meta-data is provided in a full and consistent way. This is because the computer and our databases, and also the user interface that we will eventually build, need utter consistency in all the meta-data that surrounds each of the records to be contained in the research tool that will eventuate. This is essential work, but also it can be mind-breaking and relentless. Thank goodness it was combined with finishing a book and also writing a number of journal articles!

The book is the much commented on The Archive Project, which appears in a number of previous blogs. I won’t say any more about it, except that a good deal of hard work by all four of us involved in writing it has been done, we are impatiently awaiting the arrival of proofs, and it will be launched at the 2016 BSA Annual Conference. But for now…

And now the rain it raineth every day, indeed it is still bucketing down and there is flooding everywhere, including in my garden and in the village in which I live and all over North Britain, in particular in Northern England and the borders of Scotland. We have just returned from a number of weeks in Oxford, focusing on the Cecil Rhodes papers in the Bodleian library; this too has been reported on in earlier blogs, so there will be no more from me about it for now.

A very wet and storm-ridden end to 2015, then. So let us hope that 2016 will be a kinder nicer year for us all and there will be even more activity on the letters front. To 2016!

Last updated: 1 January 2016


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