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QS 212: Ideas and Expression

Finding Information in Cultural Repositories

While you have become accustomed to using books, articles, and other secondary and tertiary sources for your research assignments, professional researchers also study primary sources located in archives, museums, special collections, and other cultural repositories. Today, you will have an opportunity to learn more about veterans’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition to viewing digitized materials, you will also learn how to search for resources held by cultural repositories around the world.

Part 1: Pre-Session Reading (including the appendix)

Schmidt, Laura.  Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research.  Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2011. Web.  29 July 2014.

Part 2: Topic Assignment

1. World War II (1939-1945) Veterans with PTSD
2. Korean War (1950-1953) Veterans with PTSD
3. Vietnam War (1961-1975) Veterans with PTSD
4. Medical/Psychological personnel that helped veterans with PTSD

Part 3: Finding Appropriate Cultural Repositories to Conduct Research

Don’t know where to start your search for a cultural repository that covers your topic?  With so many cultural repositories at your fingertips, you might feel overwhelmed.  Fortunately, there are some websites that can help researchers discover primary resources held by cultural repositories, such as Archives Grid.

  1. Open a new browser tab to ArchivesGrid.
  2. Conduct a search for post-traumatic stress disorder and your assigned topic using the box in the upper right hand side of the screen.  To conduct an effective search, think back to earlier Quest courses about how you can search for phrases and combine search topics in a database search.
  3. Browse the collections that match your search criteria.  Find a collection that you believe would provide insight into your topic and click on the “Read More” button.  Record the location of the collection, the collection name, and why it might shed light on your topic.

Part 4: Searching for Materials within an Archive

Just like libraries, some cultural repositories use catalogs to help researchers discover materials in their collections.  However, many archival and special collections use other means to make their resources accessible.  In this section, you will explore how finding aids are used by cultural repositories to help researchers find useful materials.

  1. Open the finding aid selected for your topic:

    a. World War II (1939-1945) veterans with PTSD: Minnesota Historical Society
    b. Korean War (1950-1953) veterans with PTSD: Nashville Library Special Collections
    c. Vietnam War (1961-1975) veterans with PTSD: Nashville Library Special Collections
    d. Medical/Psychological personnel that helped veterans with PTSD: Minnesota Historical Society

  2. Take some time to browse through the information contained in the finding aid and record the following:
    1. In a sentence or two, describe what is stored in the collection and how it relates to your topic?
    2. Find a specific portion of the collection described (i.e. an account) that you think is particularly relevant to your topic.  Note: some accounts might talk about the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life, these also could be relevant.

Part 5: Using Materials from a Digital Archive

In some instances, you might find that a cultural repository has digitized their collections for the public to view.  For the remainder of the assignment you will be using a collection created by the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum, which includes digitized transcripts from oral history interviews of veterans from WWI to the present.  You can search the collections one of two ways:

Method 1:

  1. Go back to ArchivesGrid
  2. Conduct a search for post-traumatic stress disorder
  3. Go to Summary View and limit group to Wisconsin Veterans Museum
  4. Go back to the Summary View and under Topics, click the Name column heading (to sort by name)
  5. Search for your conflict and browse the results

Method 2:

  1. Go to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum collections search page
  2. The search box already includes Oral and History and Interview.  As you did in part 3, you need to add your specific topic to the search and then browse the results

Once you have found a relevant account using one of these two methods:

  1. Go to the transcript collection page
  2. Select the appropriate conflict/war
  3. Click on the name of the account that you wish to view
  4. Spend some time reviewing the transcript and record the following:
    a. What specific symptoms did the person note about their or their patients PTSD?
    b. What ways did the veteran try to cope with the symptoms of PTSD? In the case of the group focused on post-war support for veterans with PTSD, what types of treatments did they provide to veterans?
    c. Do they attribute their PTSD to a specific event or multiple events?  In the case of the group focused on post-war support for veterans with PTSD, what did veterans tell them about the cause of their PTSD?