First Semester of Research: A Reflection
My research has taken many twists and turns since last semester, and it has been nothing short of an incredible, formative experience. I am so grateful to be working with two wonderful, insightful mentors, and researching something I really love.
My first semester doing research has been a challenging but rewarding experience. I still have miles to go, but I already feel I have a better grasp of what it means to do research, and what it means to be a historian. The main challenge I faced in the fall semester was in locating and analyzing sources. Amateur photographs are particularly hard to locate, and when you do, it’s difficult to answer crucial questions without the original artifact in front of you. I attempted to get in touch with several archives in december to get better access, but at the present moment am still waiting on responses.
I also came across the challenge of analyzing photographs. For starters, background information is often hard to locate (the photographer’s identity, where the photographs were taken, what order they appeared, etc.). In addition, with little written accompaniments, it is difficult to discern what the photographers intended, and what their ideological ideas may have been. Trying to analyze this from a photograph is therefore a very risky as the historian can only make assumptions. I also found in my reading that historians have not dealt with this issue enough before coming to conclusions about photographs. Hence, undergoing these difficulties and noticing the unsophisticated use of photography in my reading led to a turn in my project. Now, I will primarily address the methodological issues historians face in using photography as a historical document, and draw in official and unofficial German photographs as examples and to test different methodologies.
I received notification that my abstract has been accepted for a poster presentation at the 2013 National Conference on Undergraduate Research in LaCrosse, Wisconsin!
I also had the opportunity to visit the War/Photography exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. The exhibit was a collection of images over 165 years from Mexican-American War to the present day. Considering photography in a global context increased my understanding of how the medium developed and changed, and how war is represented in different contexts.