Historical Methods – Assignment 1, Off to the Library

I went to the University Library to search for reference materials for the first time today for my first assignment for Historical Methods. While I’ve been to the library here at the University before (it’s the only Starbucks location on campus!), this was the first time I had ventured into the stacks.

It is quite convenient that I work at the University and can walk over to the library on my lunch hour, however it’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend much time there unless I go outside of working hours. Today, as I had never been there before, I spent most of my time trying to find my way around. It took about 5 minutes to walk over to the library from my building, about 10 minutes of standing in line at the service desk to ask for direction in my search, about 10 minutes of speaking to the librarian (who was very helpful), 5 minutes to walk to the second floor to find the call number I was looking for, 10 minutes to look for a specific book and to peruse similar books, 5 more minutes at the service desk with a librarian, 10 minutes of “me” time to make some personal phone calls, and 5 minutes to walk back. Whew! Packed lunch hour and I used every minute.

I ended up leaving the library with two books, so that’s a good starting point. I’ll have to go back on the library’s website to see if they have any additional resources on the topic I have chosen for my first assignment.

Assignment One, due on October 5, 2013, must be written about a personal event, told in the third person, that can be cited as if we are someone else telling the story. My professor describes it best:

Your assignment is to research an event that actually happened to you and describe it in the style of a professional historian. In this assignment, you are telling a true story about something that really happened, so technically you are writing history. You are describing something that is easy for you to describe because you were there.

The assignment needs to be cited like any other, including footnotes and a bibliography, and at this point I feel like finding resources to cite something personal will be difficult. Up until this point I have been reading the textbook assigned for this particular section of the course, “Writing History – a Guide for Canadian Students” by Willaim Kelleher Storey and Towser Jones, and I have found that it has been a great resource to introduce me to writing historical papers. I haven’t written an essay in six or seven years (my assignments in Interior Design were project based and never written), so it has been valuable at familiarizing me with writing a University grade paper.

I have chosen to write my paper on my recent tour of the HMCS Sackville Navy Corvette Warship that is currently docked in the Halifax, Nova Scotia harbour. My fiancé and I went to visit our recently married friends in Dartmouth at the beginning of August (2013), and were able to fit in quite a few of the tourist based activities. I’m interested in exploring this topic because I am able to cover it in a few different ways. The topic is a personal story, so I am able to write about my experiences touring the ship as well as my thoughts on the experience; my paternal grandfather was a communications officer on a corvette warship in the second world war so I am able to touch on family history; finally, I can touch on the history of Halifax as well, through Pier 21 references, as all warships leaving Canada were required to depart from Pier 21.

I look forward to hearing the comments from the professor as they will (hopefully) be constructive and helpful. I hope to improve my writing through this course. While my writing has been okay in the past, I have a tendency to ramble and to either cite too many things or too few, and I hope to nip some of my writing issues in the bud because as my professor stated in the course outline.

[The paper] should sustain interest without being poetic, sentimental, indignant, or salacious. Historians report about the past; they try to be objective, but they also try to influence people’s opinions. You must seem to be dispassionate and objective, but by the end of your paper the reader should feel some of the same emotions you or the people you observed were feeling.

After work today I went onto the Winnipeg Public Library website and put a few books on hold that will hopefully help with this assignment. I was also able to find my receipt for the HMCS Sackville tour, as well as a pamphlet from the museum to back up my claims. The pieces are coming together – I can’t wait to see the end result (and then the comments!).