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Research in Environmental History: Home

This course guide is for Research in Environmental History (AMST 383, ENV 749, HIST 749, HSHM 753), taught be Professor Paul Sabin during Spring term 2024.

Yale Special Collections Exploration (January 30th class session at Beinecke Library)

We'll be meeting in the Beinecke Library during the Tuesday, January 30th, class session. In preparation for that class session, please complete the following before the end of the day on Tuesday, January 23rd:

1. Using the Archives at Yale database or the Orbis library catalog (or a combination of both, see the "Finding Archives at Yale and Beyond" tab for more information on using these discovery tools), FIND AND REQUEST at least 1 box from 2 different archival collections that you're interested in exploring during the class session on January 30th. You can request up to 3 boxes total for exploration in that class session.

  • If you haven't previously used Yale's special collections as a researcher, you'll be guided through an account setup for the first box you request (using your Yale NetID and password to log in). Once created, your account is good for all of the library's special collections. Email Bill Landis if you encounter any problems creating an account or requesting collection materials.
  • Links from collections highlighted on the Collections of Potential Interest ... tab on this guide will also take you to the finding aid for that collection in Archives at Yale. Alternatively, you can do some creative keyword searching in Archives at Yale to find materials of interest in other collections. Make sure that the collections from which you request boxes belong to either Beinecke Library or Manuscripts & Archives and not one of the Yale Library's smaller special collections (Arts, Divinity, Lewis Walpole, Medical Historical, or Music).

2. Send an email to Bill Landis ( letting him know the 2 or 3 boxes you've requested for the January 30th class session at Beinecke Library.

Questions to Consider As You Explore the Collections

During the class session on Tuesday, January 30th, think about the following questions as you explore materials in the boxes you're requested. Be prepared to share with your colleagues your thoughts about the collection materials you looked at.

  • Who “created” the archival collection? The materials you looked at in the collection? When and where were the materials created? Can you find any information about how the collection ended up at Yale?
  • What is going on in the documents you explored? What is the context for them?
  • Whose perspective(s) comes through in the document(s)? Whose doesn’t?
    • Michel-Rolph Trouillot (in Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, Beacon Press, 1995, page 26) argues that “silences enter the process of historical production at four crucial moments: 1. the moment of fact creation (the making of sources), 2. the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives), 3. the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives), and 4. the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance).” What kinds of silences (in the making of either the sources or archives) do you see in the materials you explored?
  • What can you know based on the sources you have in front of you? What do you not know?
  • What questions do the sources raise that could lead you to further research?
  • How does what you found in the collection relate to what you thought would be there, based on the finding aid?

Yale Library Contacts

The following Yale librarians may be helpful as you embark on your research projects for this course. Feel free to contact us!

  • Joshua Cochran - - Curator for American History and Diplomacy, Beinecke Library.
  • James Kessenides - - Kaplanoff Librarian for American History, Sterling Memorial Library.
  • Bill Landis - - Teaching Librarian, Beinecke Library.
  • Rachel Sperling - - Librarian for Anthropology and Environmental Studies, Marx Science and Social Science Library.

Contact information for other Yale Library subject specialists can be found here.