In a recent op-ed piece by Sean Pidgeon, he defines research rapture:
“A state of enthusiasm or exaltation arising from the exhaustive study of a topic or period of history; the delightful but dangerous condition of becoming repeatedly sidetracked in following intriguing threads of information, or constantly searching for one more elusive fact.”
Pidgeon’s column triggered many rapture memories from my days as a research librarian. The opportunity and challenge of engaging in the research of faculty and students over the years has been one of the joys of my professional life. Some of my favorites: the archaeologist tracing the history of turpentine from the Middle East to Europe by analysis of Renaissance painting paint fragments; an Abigail Adams quote from a letter to her husband inscribed on the fireplace mantle in the East Room of the White House; details of Pablo Neruda’s life; details of a Congolese form of voodoo practices in Cuba; and, who said “We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities,” Yogi Berra or Pogo?
In each case, except the last, the search for an answer resulted in lots of sidetracks and lots of new related information—some for the researcher, but all for me!
Central Research Room, April 5, 1938. Records of the National Archives (RG 64). The Central Research Room is located on the 2nd floor of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
As an administrator I have continued some of the rapture by visits to my reading rooms (at Duke, the New York Public Library, and now the National Archives) and conversations with researchers—conversations about their research and their discoveries. And social media now plays a role in the process. One particular researcher posts his discoveries to his Facebook page and I try to stop by the reading room to take a gander and learn the significance of the find.
And that is why I have devoted my life to facilitating access to information!
P.S. The Yogi vs. Pogo question is still open, if there are any takers. It landed on my desk many years ago as a result of a conversation between Chuck Vest, then President of MIT and Al Gore, then Vice President of the United States!