Assignment 2: Exploring the Archives

“There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle!”
                   —August Spies, before his execution

Today we’ll dedicate our time to exploring the Haymarket Affair archives at the Library of Congress American Memory Collection and the Chicago Historical Society.

1) Briefly read through the Chicago Historical Society’s explanation regarding historical evidence and the project of the digital archives: The Nature of Historical Evidence, The Haymarket Affair Evidence, and What is the Digital Collection?

2) Then spend some time familiarizing yourself with the American Memory Chicago Anarchists on Trial: Evidence from the Haymarket Affair, 1886-1887 and the Chicago Historical Society’s Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

At this stage, let intuition and curiosity guide you, but be certain to check out an assortment of artifacts (trial transcripts, newspaper depictions, engraved images, etc.) found on each site. 

Don’t miss:
(For now you should disregard the Dramas of Haymarket site, sponsored by Northwestern University and affiliated with the Chicago Historical Society.  We’ll visit that site for Assignment 3.)

You’ll find digital transcripts for many items in each collection, but be certain to take advantage of the images of the material artifacts themselves.  For instance, the images of the Spies and Parsons autobiographies are as close as we can get—without traveling to Chicago—to holding the historical objects in our hands.  And the appearance of a historical artifact can often tell us just as much as the text of what it says.  For instance, what might Spies’ handwriting suggest about him?

Be certain to give yourself a sense of coverage from diverse types of artifacts: trial proceedings and witness testimony, material evidence from the trial (the unexploded bomb, etc), the Spies and Parsons autobiographies, broadsides and Socialist newspapers, popular engravings and prints, etc.

3)  Now, get serious about testing claims:
  • Start looking for material relevant to the claims you selected.
  • But, also, return to yesterday's discussion board forum, and refresh yourself on the claims that  others in your group specified.  That might give you a list of 10-12 claims to work with.
  • You will not have time to research each claim, of course; the list simply insures that you have a large pool to select from in case your choices turn out to be dead-ends.  
  • And the list encourages you to alert group members to artifacts relevant to their choices that you find (post that information to them on yesterday's board or send email, etc.).
  • As you search, also be alert for sides or aspects to the Affair that the historians leave out.
4) Now, get concrete about putting an historian on trial:
  • From your research in the digital archives, select three artifacts relevant to one claim to report back on under the Discussion Board entry, “Exploring the Archives: Artifact Reports.”  
  • Try to find artifacts of a different nature (one witness’ testimony, one popular engraving, and one Socialist broadside, for example), but focus on ones that intrigue you and which speak to your historian’s claim about the Haymarket Affair.  
  • Please identify the specific locations of the selected items by collection and description or by direct URL link so that others may easily view them.  
  • For your three artifacts, consider answering some of the possible following questions but do answer the last::
    • What is your artifact?  What text or images did you find?
    • Where was your artifact found?
    • Who authored or created the artifact?  For what purpose was it created?
    • What does your artifact indicate about the defendants?  German immigrants?  The police?  The government?  The labor movement?  Socialism?
    • Most importantly, does your cluster of artifacts reinforce, refute, complicate, or modify the claim of your historian?   On the basis of your research, how does your historian do on the "test"?
5) Read other artifact reports as time permits, but reply thoughtfully to the report of at least one other person (if at all possible, reply to a person you haven't replied to before and who hasn't received a reply).  And consider an addendum to your artifact report as a result of reading others.

"The firing upon Fort Sumter was a terrible thing to our country, but it was open warfare.  
I think it was nothing compared with this insidious, infamous plot to ruin our laws and
our country secretly and in this cowardly way."
-------Prosecutor Julius S. Grinnell