Tag Archives: Research

Writing the Michael Davis Papers Finding Aid

Prior to writing the finding aid for the Michael Davis Papers, I researched the collection’s contents and learned that Michael Davis was the chairman of the Committee for the Nation’s Health (CNH) during Harry Truman’s presidency. The CNH supported Truman’s national health insurance initiative and campaigned against organizations that opposed the program, such as the American Medical Association. Most of the collection contained publications, articles, press releases, and newsletters from the CNH and opposing organizations.

Once I had a thorough understanding of the collection, I began my description. First, I described the collection as a whole by summarizing the types of documents it contained and the collection’s primary subjects and themes. I also provided the historical context of the collection and explained how the collection related to Harry Truman. My series description was brief because there was only one series, the Subject File. Again, I outlined the types of documents and the subject matter of the series, along with the series’ arrangement. Lastly, I described the collection at the file unit level by listing the folder titles for each box in the collection.

There was other essential information I included in the finding aid, such as copyright information and information about the collection’s size and date span. I also needed to compose a biographical sketch of Michael Davis’s life, which proved difficult because the collection had little information about him. However, after some research in the archive, I was able to create a timeline of Michael Davis’s education and employment history. My final step was to write the HTML webpage for the finding aid using a program called Dreamweaver. As a HTML document, the finding aid was added to the Truman Library’s website where it is now available to researchers.

Link to the Michael M. Davis Papers Finding Aid

Great Tours need Great Stories

By Savannah Lore


This week I have been spending time on the tour script for the Majors house. Mostly, I have been going through Majors’ memoir, Seventy Years on the Frontier, and looking at the documents from the Wornall-Majors Museum records.

The documents from Wornall-Majors will take more time to figure out just because of the range of things that I have found. Majors’ memoir, however, has supplied me we with a good amount of information that I did not know and will add into my tour script.


I know I have to be careful with some of the information that Majors writes. As a good historian knows, memoirs are biased and based on memories usually written decades later. (Majors, writing in 1893, is a fan of the traditional narrative of the West. And thus, treats groups, like Native Americans, not in a correct or appropriate manner that we expect today.) So, the stories will not be used in that manner in my script. However, some of these stories could be great material in trying to explain Majors thoughts, feelings and self-identity. Storytelling is a major part of a tour because it keeps visitors engaged. For example, talking about the accidents that plague Pony Express riders (drowning, freezing to death) is a way of saying it was dangerous occupation so people learn it quickly and have examples. I have not had many visitors only interested in the bare facts of the building and the facts about Majors. Not to say that it hasn’t happen where people will only ask questions about when furniture was built or wanting to know about the different kinds of wood. It happens, and some times people only want a chance to talk about what they know without my input. I, however, notice that people will directly engage me more if I tell them a great narrative as an example of what information I want them to know.

Getting Un-stuck

Research Vacuums Suck

Research Vacuums Suck

By Matthew Reeves

Every now and then, you’re going to hit a research wall. All HistoryMakers have experienced it. And now that I think about it, the wall metaphor is not exactly a great one. It’s really more like a research vacuum. You’ll know the question that you want to ask, and perhaps you can even imagine the type of sources that you’d like to find. But like oxygen in space, the sources aren’t there, and don’t seem likely to present themselves anytime soon.

At times like these, even the most experienced researchers reach out to their dear friends, the archivist. Archives are wonderful places – most that I’ve visited bubble over with resources – but they are often a bit like a junk-yard. No, you’re not likely to find a spare side-mirror for a 2003 Corolla at an archive, and they usually don’t have large dogs guarding the documents. But what you are going to need, at either a junkyard or the National archives, is help finding the right item.

My own particular research vacuum was the White Oak School, a modest country school that operated in rural Jackson County from the late nineteenth century until the middle 1960s, when it was annexed into the Independence School District. My largest research trouble was that the nature of small school and its county locale meant that there was literally no information about the school at the Missouri Valley Archives. Dr. Wolf, the Kansas City Historic Preservation Officer and erstwhile internship, suggested that I contact David Jackson at the Jackson County Historical Society.

The Old Jackson County Courthouse

The Old Jackson County Courthouse

Located in the historic (and recently renovated) Old Jackson County Courthouse, the Historical society had a wealth of information about the White Oak School. There were some primary source accounts of the school’s creation that David Jackson found in a well-worn county history. The historical society even had a vertical file dedicated to Jackson county schools, which contained several yellowing newspaper articles from 1960s that covered the White Oak School’s annexation and eventual closure. David even helped me find some additional information on Little Blue, a rural Jackson County community that had previously proved difficult to locate. Without David Jackson’s knowledgeable and capable assistance, I would still be stuck in that research vacuum.

So, get to know your local archivist — they are your best friend in the archive.