I’m starting to realize that my research here at Smithsonian is as much about learning about/from the people who are working here in the various museums then it is about studying the audio archives. This place is so big and there are so many vastly disparate projects that people here are working on, I find it really inspiring. I have always found the the multi-disciplinary approach has worked best for me and having the opportunity to have access to so many disciplines in one concentrated place is really cool.
Earlier this week I met with an ethnographer at the National Museum of Natural History and just today I hung out with the “Mobile Learning Program Lead” at the National Postal Museum. I didn’t even know there was a Postal Museum. But now I do and it turns out to be a really cool place if you are over 80 and collect stamps. Ha ha ha…this is what I expected, but I was pretty far off; the museum is totally fascinating as it dives into the history of the Postal Service in relation to the history of the country. It’s also really amazing how much innovation the Postal Service contributed through developing new ways to collect mailbags via airplane without landing to building machinery to read and sort billions of pieces of mail to starting to use ethanol-fueled vehicles in the 1980s way before anyone else cared at all about minimizing fossil fuel use. And apparently that whole only-take-right-hand-turns thing to maximize your driving efficiency was pioneered by the Postal Service as well.
My fourth week here is winding down and as I reflect, I realize how valuable these interactions have been for me and how they will likely continue to be so in the years ahead. I have gone in and out of feeling like I had not yet done enough actual listening to audio from the various archives, but I think that’s still a step away in any directed and significant way. For now, I’m just going to keep heading in the direction that’s feeling right.