Four more eight-hour days buried in a basement seem likely to yield me knowledge that no one else has. My first day saw me finding my feet, remembering how not to be overwhelmed by masses of raw data--by the catalog that tells me what raw data might even be available, even before I encounter the data itself. My brain re-learns handwritings I have known well. There's an art to being in the archive.
By the end of the afternoon, I have slips and order forms in spades, ready to be dealt out to the archivists who have a surprisingly chaotic pair of rooms, a reading space more crowded and less rulebound than any I've ever used. "If you have a digital camera and want to use it," the woman who helps me says, "go ahead. And feel free to use our lights!" I come away from my first day with images of letters that have been crucial to arguments I have already made, and with hopes of even finer things as the week goes on.