Journalists, Platforms, & Historians

blogYou know you've made it as an academic blogger when a senior scholar reads one of your blog posts and expands upon it on their blog. This happened to me last week, when "Historiann" Ann M. Little read "How to Write for Your Readers" and offered a follow-up post.

Ann points out that in addition to writing a good story, journalists have the benefit of platforms and publisher advances that they can use to hire researchers.

So this is the part of the story that I think is missing from Zuckoff’s advice about writing a bestseller:  First of all, the journalists-turned-bestsellers that I know of are writers who already have a prominent platform and a name brand.  This is why a lot of U.S. Americans think Cokie Roberts is a more authoritative source for information on early American women’s history and the history of American First Ladies than Catherine Allgor or Mary Beth Norton, two professional historians who have published with trade presses and know how to tell a story.

Additionally, Ann questions whether historians should attempt to compete with journalists when they write their books.

Should professional historians try to compete on this playing field?  (Do we even want to?  I’m sure some of you will have different answers to this question.)  I’m all for writing books that people want to read.  Although I give away a metric tonne of free writing on this blog, I strongly believe that if we want to publish physical books and ask people to buy them, we need to think about the quality of our writing and tell a good story.  Covart and Zuckoff are absolutely right about that.

I am all for writing the best books possible, but like Ann, I wouldn't want to hire out my research. I enjoy researching. I also like that I can control the material I see and consider.

You should check out Ann's post. She provides great insight into academic publishing and she offers a sneak peak at her forthcoming book The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright (Yale, 2016).

Click here to read Ann's post


5 Reasons Why You Should Research at the David Library of the American Revolution

Do you (or your students) study the American Revolution? Would you like to save and receive funds for your research?

In this post you will learn about the David Library of the American Revolution, its research fellowship for graduate students and post-doctoral scholars, and its award for undergraduate research.


DLAR LogoBrief Overview: The David Library of the American Revolution

The David Library of the American Revolution (DLAR) supports and promotes the study of the American revolutionary era ca. 1750-1800.

Businessman, philanthropist, and revolutionary-era enthusiast Sol Feinstone (1888-1980) founded the David Library in 1959; he named the institution after his grandson David Golub. Feinstone began the DLAR with his extensive, private collection of revolutionary-era manuscripts. In 1974, he built the present library and auxiliary buildings on his 118-acre farm in historic Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania and opened them to the public.


5 Reasons Why You Should Research at the David Library

Below I provide my top 5 reasons for why you should study at the David Library of the American Revolution.

The first 3 apply to anyone who researches the American Revolution. Reasons 4 & 5 discuss two perks of being a DLAR fellow.


1. The Collections

DLAR LibraryThe David Library possesses “all [of] the basic primary sources” on the American Revolution and its War for Independence.

The Library also holds records that speak to the French and Indian War and the early republic United States.

The DLAR has acquired materials from around the world; the library has over 10,000 reels of microfilm in its collection.

Rather than undertake expensive and time-consuming travel across the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and France, researchers will find nearly all of the information they seek within the printed, manuscript, and microfilm collections of the David Library.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at their “Guide to Microfilm Holdings.”


2. Knowledgeable Staff

Librarian Katherine A. Ludwig knows the collection.

If you study the American Revolution, you should contact Kathie and spend a few minutes describing your project and the information you seek. Within minutes she will point you toward records and correspondence that you either did not know existed or that you thought you would spend thousands of dollars on overseas travel to find.


3. Scenic and Historic Location

Few archives offer as much complementary, scenic inspiration for their subject matter as the David Library.

Sol Feinstone’s 118-acre farm overlooks the Delaware River near the spot where George Washington crossed for his surprise attack at Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey on December 25/26, 1776.

Whenever you need to peel your dry, tired eyes from the books and microfilm you have spent all day reading, you can take a walk around the farm or along the Delaware River to recharge your spirit, mind, and eyes.

Washington Crossing the Delaware


4. Fellows Get 24/7 Access to the Library

Are you a night owl who yearns to research at 3am when your mind is at its best?

The David Library opens for public research Tuesday through Saturday, 10am-5pm. But, if you apply for and receive one of their fantastic fellowships, you will have access to the library and its holdings any day or time you want.

The David Library is always open to its fellows.


DLARR Farmhouse5. Housing and the Customizable Social Experience

The David Library offers its fellows a room in Sol Feinstone’s farmhouse as part of their fellowship.

Fellows work with Chief Operating Officer Meg McSweeney to schedule their month-long research residency. Upon submitting the dates you would like to work at the David Library, Meg will advise you as to how many other fellows plan to be in residence during the dates you provide. This information will allow you to customize your experience.

Scholars who prefer solitude will be able to select a time when few other scholars will be in residence. Historians who love to work amid the company of other scholars can choose a time when several scholars plan to be in residence.


Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Fellowships

Fellowship Term: 1 Month Award Amount: $1000-$1600 plus housing Who Can Apply: Doctoral Candidates and Post-Doctoral Scholars Due Date: March 7, 2015

The David Library expects to appoint approximately 8 fellows for 2015-2016.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailThe David Library Academic Advisory Council is an open-minded body that seeks applicants who study history, Africana studies, gender studies, women’s studies, political science, religion, law, geography, or any other area that the DLAR collections support research in.

Application Materials: Application materials include 6 copies of a research proposal, CV, and writing sample plus 2 letters of recommendation.

DLAR Fellowship Application


Undergraduate Research Fellowship

First Place Award: $500 Second Place Award: $250 Third Place Award: $150 Entry Deadline: June 30, 2015

New for 2015: The David Library of the American Revolution just announced its brand-new Omar Vázquez Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Research.

Any undergraduate enrolled in an accredited 4-year college or university in the United States may apply for this award. To apply, they must submit a research paper (up to 30 pages) written as a requirement for an American history or Early American Studies course during the 2014-2015 academic year. The paper may cover any area related to early American history circa 1750 to 1800.

The DLAR Academic Advisory Council strongly encourages any student who has made use of DLAR collections to apply.

Application Materials: 1 paper up to 30 pages in length, written in English, and formatted with double spacing, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, and Chicago Manual of Style foot or end notes. Applicants should also include a Works Cited page, which will not count toward the 30-page limit.

Applicants who wish to submit a portion of their undergraduate thesis may do so, but must include a table of contents in addition to all of the above (table of contents will not count toward 30-page limit).

Visit “Omar Vázquez Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Research” for more details and submission requirements.


Google Map of DLARConclusions

In 2008, I had the honor to be a fellow at the David Library of the American Revolution. It was one of my best, and most unique, fellowship experiences.

My trip to the DLAR saved me time and money. Kathie Ludwig helped me access records that I would have had to travel all around the United States, Canada, and Great Britain to read.

My DLAR fellowship also helped me to extend my educational experience beyond my historical research.

Being a rather social person, I opted to visit when many other scholars were in residence. My interactions with these scholars not only helped me network with senior colleagues, but it allowed me to learn from their knowledge and experiences.

All of the other fellows I encountered helped me locate collections that might be helpful to my research. They also shared invaluable information about how they obtained their academic jobs, why they thought they had yet to be successful in their pursuit of a tenure-track position, how they published their first books and articles, and information about other archives that would benefit my research.

The presence of these scholars enriched my mind and relieved my scholar’s solitude— that feeling of loneliness many of us experience when we leave our families for weeks at a time to spend hours with books, manuscripts, and microfilm records.

I enjoyed my fellowship experience at the David Library of the American Revolution immensely.


Thoughtful-WomanNote for Independent Scholars

I held my fellowship at the David Library as a graduate student, but my experiences with the DLAR, its staff, and previous fellows has left me with the impression that the David Library Academic Advisory Council would welcome and seriously consider applications from independent scholars who hold doctorates.


What Do You Think?

What are your favorite libraries and archives?

Do they offer fellowships for historians?


*Pictures of DLAR Farmhouse & Library building courtesy of the David Library of the American Revolution.


Getting Access: Alumni Libraries

library-cloudWelcome to Getting Access, a series devoted to helping you obtain the digital records you need.  

Alumni Libraries

Many universities and colleges extend library privileges to alumni. Benefits vary, but can include book borrowing privileges and access to online resources.

The catch: You must be a paying member of the school’s alumni association.


PSUThe Good

The Penn State Alumni Association excels in their library access for alumni. They offer Association members book borrowing privileges and remote access to digital databases.

The databases in the Penn State Alumni Library include:

I am grateful for the access Penn State provides, but it is not a comprehensive solution. Not all journals allow universities to extend their full-institutional subscriptions to persons who are not employed by or enrolled in the university. I spend $15/year for additional JStor access through the William and Mary Quarterly because it is the only way I can download an article they have published within the last 5 years. (I keep only the most current journal because bookshelf space is scarce in my house.)


UCDThe Not So Good

Not all alumni libraries are equal. I also belong to the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, the organization for University of California, Davis alumni. Like Penn State, the University of California offers members of its alumni associations access to an “Alumni Library.” However, UC limits its library privileges to books; paid members of its alumni associations can borrow up to 5 books from any UC Library. (This benefit does not include ILL privileges.)

The University of California may tout itself as one system, but it does not have one alumni organization. Each campus has its own group and some groups add features to its UC Alumni Library. For example, the UCLA Alumni Association offers its members access to the ProQuest Research Library.


The Bottom Line

You should see if your college alumni association offers library access. If they do, and you're a member, then you may be missing out on a great benefit you already paid for. If you are not an alumni association member, perhaps the database access provided by your alumni library is worth rekindling your school spirit for.


What Do You Think?

Have you found any helpful ways for remotely accessing digital records or academic journal articles? If so please leave a comment or send me a tweet.



How to Network: My Interview with Jennifer Polk, Ph.D.

InterviewThis week I had the good fortune to interview Jennifer Polk, Ph.D., founder of the blog From Ph.D. to Life. Since December, Jen has written about her transition from academia to real life and her quest to find a fulfilling (and paying) career. Jen’s website serves as a valuable resource for anyone who is thinking about how to apply their historic skills to other history-related work or about transitioning to a non-history career. When you visit Jen’s site you will find that many of her posts are the Q & A sessions she has conducted with educators, researchers, writers, project managers, career coaches, and public speakers. These sessions are the result of Jen’s quest to learn more about different careers as well as how others with advanced degrees have found jobs that they love.

As I am also transitioning from Ph.D. to life, I reached out to Jen to find out more about her transition and how she has managed to network with so many different people.


How does Jen Network?

When I asked Jen about networking she stated, “The challenge of networking is that you are asking people for help and seeking help is difficult.”

After graduation, Jen wanted to learn about what other people do for a living. Her friends helped her ease into networking by introducing her to spouses and colleagues with interesting careers. These friendly interviews gave her the confidence to interact with strangers.

Jen uses the Internet to research different career possibilities. When she finds an interesting position or company, she searches their webpage to find a person who might talk to her. In one instance she found an advertisement for a museum consulting firm in her city. She went to the firm’s website and clicked through the employee bios. Jen found that she and a V.P. of the company shared a common link: They both held doctorates in history from the same university. Jen believed that this common connection might induce the V.P. to help her with information, so she sent him an e-mail. Jen admitted that “it is intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know,” but she also stated that “the worst that can happen is that they say “no” or ignore you.” Jen’s instincts about the common bond proved correct. A week after she sent her e-mail, the V.P. replied that he would by happy to sit down for a conversation. (Click here to read Jen’s interview.)

networkingAfter months of networking, Jen is still pleasantly surprised by how positively people react when she reaches out to them for her blog Q & As. She has found that people are excited and eager to help, “people like to help and they like to talk about themselves and give advice.”


Why Historians Make Good Networkers

I enjoyed meeting Jen and hearing about her transition experience. She taught me a lot about how to network and convinced me that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask people for help. After all, the worst that can happen is that the person says “no.” However, that outcome seems unlikely. The people Jen has contacted have been eager and excited to help.

My conversation with Jen also helped me to realize that historians are well positioned to network; we possess all of the skills needed to reach out and connect with other people. Historians know how to research and we like to interact with people. Okay, so most of the people we interact with are long since dead, but we seek them out anyway in the papers and works they left behind. We seek them out because we want them to help us answer questions we have about the topics, periods, people, thoughts, and cultures we study. We receive their help when we read, interrogate, and contextualize the papers and possessions they left behind. This one-sided engagement allows us to better understand and connect with our historical people. Networking with the living is not so dissimilar.

The best interactions take place when you find another person who shares something in common with you. Jen conducts research before she initiates contact. When she reaches out to someone she leads with what they share in common: an alma mater, an advanced degree, interests, an experience. After establishing this common ground, Jen asks for help. Historians study people and know that most people will respond favorably to requests for assistance when they feel connected to them. Moreover, historians are capable of making the most out of each networking opportunity because we know how to ask questions of our sources.

Networking will play an important role in my quest to turn my passion for history, research, and writing into a career that pays. I am grateful for the wisdom Jen imparted and I look forward to following and learning from her career journey at From Life to PhD.


What Do You Think?

Do you possess helpful networking wisdom or have you had a networking experience that you would like to share?

Do you use or know of other skills that historians possess that we can use to find or further our careers?



How to Twitter Part 1: 4 Myths and Realities

How to Twitter Part 1 is the first of a three post series on how I understand and use Twitter. TwitterTwitter is a powerful social networking tool that allows users to spread information quickly and widely in succinct, 140 character conversations. It is an important tool to master and one I misunderstood until recently.

This first post will focus on myths and realities about how to use Twitter. The second will open a discussion on why historians (especially independent historians) should use Twitter. The third post will discuss how you can get started with Twitter.

I began using Twitter about eighteen months ago after I heard other historians talk about how they used it at the AHA 2012 THATCamp. I loved the idea of using Twitter to meet and converse with other historians. However within a few days of creating my account, I became overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information on Twitter and within a few weeks I stopped using it. The source of my frustration: I did not really understand how to use Twitter.

Recently, I attended a workshop on how to Twitter. For three hours, Lauren MacLeod (@bostonbookgirl) walked me and other writers through Twitter and dispelled the misconceptions we had formed about using it


Myth #1: You have to Follow and Keep Up with Every Twitter Conversation

Reality: Twitter is an information blitz. You cannot keep up with every conversation. The best you can do is check in periodically and add your two cents.


Myth #2: Using Twitter Takes Up Too Much Time

Reality: Using Twitter takes only the amount of time you let it. You can Twitter in as little as 10 to 20 minutes per day. I spread out my daily 10-20 minutes to check Twitter at 2 or 3 different times.


Myth #3: Twitter is Disorganized and Hard to Use

Reality: Twitter Lists organize Twitter conversations into user-friendly categories. You can set up lists around hashtags, such as #twitterstorians, or customize Twitter Istockthem by topic. I have lists organized around friends and family, historians, writers, archives, presses and publishing, digital humanities, Boston news and events, Boston sports, and product news. When I check-in I simply click on my lists and scroll down to peruse what people are tweeting about.

Incidentally, I use Twitter apps such as Janetter on my Mac and Tweetcaster on my iDevices. I have found them easier to use than Twitter as I prefer to follow Twitter using lists; in my opinion their list browsing functionality is better and easier to use.


Myth #4: Twitter is Only for Work OR Personal Use

Reality: You can use Twitter for both. Recent studies have shown that the social media works best when you tweet a mixture of work and personal news. Your followers like to know who you are by learning about your other interests and activities.

With that said, your Twitter profile and tweets are highly Googleable. Therefore, you should decide how you want to represent yourself on Twitter before you tweet. What is your primary purpose for being on Twitter? Professional networking? Or, personal pleasure? Most of your tweets should concern your primary purpose.

My primary purpose on Twitter is professional. With that said, I am also a Boston sports fan and I use Twitter to converse with other fans. I tweet history by day and sports by night.


A Happy Twitter Ending

Now that I understand how to use Twitter I am having a lot of fun with it. The historians, writers, and publishers I have met and follow are very nice and helpful; they always draw my attention to articles, blog posts, books, events, and facts that I might have missed. They are also generous with their time. @OUPAcademic recommended sources on early American diplomacy after I asked if they had similar titles to [amazon_link id="0199640351" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Remaking the British Atlantic[/amazon_link] by P.J. Marshall. And, several historians responded when I queried about peace talks between the United States and Great Britain prior to 1782.


What Do You Think?

I would love to know more about how you use Twitter and about the great hashtags and people you follow. Please leave a comment if you have suggestions or send me a tweet @lizcovart.