Today we are pleased to share a post by one of our patrons at the Presidio Research Center. SBTHP Thanks you, Tom, for sharing your perspective on why small archives and libraries like ours are a valuable resource for scholars!
by Thomas E. Tolley
The Research Center at the Santa Barbara Presidio is a remarkable archive. Built in some part on the collection of the late Richard Whitehead, along with many contributions from within and outside of the community, the Center is a rich, diverse resource for those who are compelled to pursue interests in local, state, and regional histories. Many people also use the Center to pursue family histories, looking for clues and answers to what components make up the mélange that all of us are.
I have had the fortune of using the Research Center over the course of two summers, as part of the process of completing my Dissertation (Anthropology-Historical Archaeology, expected Spring 2014). The first, in 2012, allowed me to reconfigure my dissertation topic into a more refined question, one that will hopefully reopen the discourse on California mission histories, and move the field into new areas of consideration. The accessible documents in the Research Center gave me the chance to remove unnecessary tangents, and essentially planted the seeds that grew into my opportunity to contribute to both Mission Studies and public knowledge as a whole. The second, this summer of 2013, I was able to locate additional original resources that support and reinforce my topic, and greatly aid in the process of making a compelling argument, as well as one that matters. To be blunt, my PhD would not be happening if it had not been for places like the Research Center.
I have over 20 years of business experience and CRM (Cultural Resource Management) experience, so I appreciate the amount of background research that needs to take place before many projects can get off the ground. Time is precious, and if you have resources you cannot find, that ends up costing time and money. For projects in construction, renovation, historic preservation, even in school projects and personal curiosity, the Research Center is the place to start. There is a great chance that you will find what you need there, and if by chance you do not, the staff will be able to tell you where on the Central Coast it is. That kind of ability, accessibility, and professionalism is invaluable.
Thomas Tolley is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Syracuse University