Mixtapes in Da Nang
Today’s post comes from Pascal Massinon, recipient of the 2012 National Archives Legislative Archives Fellowship. Pascal is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Michigan, and will be using records at the National Archives to research his dissertation topic, “Home Taping: Participant Listeners and the Political Culture of Home Recording in the U.S.” Stay tuned to NARAtions as Pascal provides updates on his research and fellowship experience at the National Archives.
Sparse finding aids often require a more hands-on approach to the sprawling collections at the National Archives in downtown Washington, so legislative archivist Kate Mollan wanted me to join her in the maze of air-conditioned stacks. We were trying to track down some materials produced by the Office of Technology Assessment in the 1980s relevant to my dissertation project, “Home Taping: Participant Listeners and the Political Culture of Home Recording in the U.S.” “By the way,” she said, “the Historian at the Center for Legislative Archives, who’s been helping with the Fellowship you applied for, would like to meet you.”
Fast-forward two weeks, and after a long game of cat and mouse with Center Historian Richard McCulley, I was startled to be sitting in the office of David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (AOTUS, in the acronymed parlance of DC). The Archivist told anecdotes about Marines stationed in Da Nang that received treasured reel-to-reel tapes from friends and loved ones back home. One woman, he remembered, sent her boyfriend a mixtape of songs featuring her name (was it Mary? I knew I should have taken notes…) so that he wouldn’t forget her while in Vietnam. When you write about the politics of home recording, you hear tape-related stories from all kinds of folks, and this was a great one to put in my back pocket for the future. But the Archivist didn’t just invite me to his office to share his tale of the mixtape. No, this surprise visit ended with the wonderful news that I’d be named the recipient of this year’s National Archives Legislative Archives Fellowship!
The next day, the staff at Center for Legislative Archives welcomed me to the fold by bringing me to a baseball game on a sweltering DC afternoon. The Nationals couldn’t figure out R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball (they wouldn’t be the first this year) and the Mets hit Gio Gonzalez pretty hard, but we still had a great time even as the Nats looked more like the Montreal Expos of yore than the leaders of the NL East that they’ve been this season.
Pascal (first row on the left) and National Archives staff members attend a Washington Nationals baseball game
Through the course of the fellowship, I’ll be using this blog to write about my experiences in the archives, share some research thoughts, post documents, and talk about some of the other archival trips I’ll be taking in the coming months. I’ve already done a bit of research in the National Archives, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the stuff I’ve found so far. Stay tuned.