Friday, February 01, 2013

Magic in the Archives What do historians do in the archives? Read a lot, take a lot of notes… sometimes get excited (quietly) when they find something wonderful. But Wi-fi and social media can also allow historians to share their moments of archival thrills. The last couple days, Lisa Smith (who is on sabbatical) has been transcribing an eighteenth-century French witch’s spell book at the Wellcome Library, London. It’s a fascinating source, as you might expect, and she’s been sharing her delight. Why stop at transcribing, when you can tweet magical spells? Her spell tweets have been rounded up by Daniel Goldberg on Storify under the grand title, “In the Archives: Recipes, Remedies & Spells in #HistMed: An historian of medicine works with an 18th c. spellbook. Awesome in so many ways . . .” For some spells on talking to the animals, chasing away snakes, you can read the story as it emerges here: When asked what tweeting adds to the research experience, Smith noted that she thinks more closely about the meaning of each spell while she transcribes, in part because she is spending more time at an early research stage on closely translating each line. And besides, it’s fun.