Hi! My name is Daniel Rice. I graduated from the University of Arkansas in May, and I’m living in Chapel Hill, NC as my wife begins a doctoral program here. I applied to law schools last fall, and I accepted an offer to attend Duke Law after a one-year deferral, during which time I’m serving as a research assistant to a nearby law professor. I hope to become a professor of constitutional law and legal history.
Last summer (2010), I had the great privilege of interning at the National Archives’ Center for Legislative Archives. Aside from completing a research assignment that resulted in this, I had unparalleled access to some of our nation’s most historically significant documents. The National Archives digitizes its records as rapidly as it can (see here, here, here, and elsewhere), but the general public cannot possibly have seen so many other of the documents that abutted my workspace. I spent many a famished, lonesome evening photographing them (OK, so things weren’t so bad). As a result, my hard drive is loaded with pictorial treasures that I can’t wait to show my grandchildren.
But I’d rather the exhibition begin now. Rather than write an article that I probably couldn’t get published anyway as a man (temporarily) without an institution, I plan to use this blog as a repository for the photos I took last summer. I aim to remind students and professors of American political and constitutional history why what they study is so much cooler than what their friends and colleagues do. As I upload pictures to the blog, I’ll tell you what the documents mean to me and invite you to meditate on the relationship between those gorgeous scribbled lines and the arguments we construct to order our society. I want you to feel the excitement that NARA employees and interns experience upon viewing an exceptionally important piece of paper for the first time. It’s a thrill that never really leaves you. If it can’t exactly be achieved remotely, I at least want it to be approximated.
How much material do I have? Probably enough to blog about something new every day for a few years. I won’t keep to a schedule, but I’ll post new material constantly. Many of the documents are presidential nominations to judicial, diplomatic, military, and cabinet positions. Others are presidential messages to Congress, annual presidential messages, original handwritten or printed copies of bills, petitions to Congress, treaty-related papers, electoral tallies, and committee papers.
My supervisor has informed me that all of the Center‘s documents are in the public domain (provided an adequate amount of time has elapsed for each) and that I’m free to use the pictures I took for any pedagogical purposes I have in mind. I absolutely do not mean to preempt the Center’s fine digitization efforts. Rather, in the spirit of my public-outreach internship, I plan to pursue the Center’s objectives as a faithful alumnus with a different (and ever-increasing?) audience.
My next post will give you a taste of my vision for the blog. I hope the project is as enjoyable for you as it will surely be rewarding for me!