The final segment of the colloquial series at the University of Alabama was held on Monday, April 22, 2013. Jason Edward Black presented his 8-year project of archival research on Harvey Milk. Black’s novel An Archive of Hope, published on February 12, 2013, is a collection of Milk’s early political life through his assassination in 1977.
Black began by presenting an outline of the lecture, beginning with general history of Harvey Milk. Black describes the importance of covering both the larger monumental political moments, but also the smaller movements.
Black continues to describe the daunting process of researching and extracting information for the discourse. Black talked about his trips to San Francisco to sift through the San Francisco Public Library’s archives of Harvey Milk. While he was working in San Francisco, Black was able to gain a larger connection to his project.
Through rigorous hours in the library and creating relationships with Harvey’s speechwriter and personal photographer, Black had hit the archival jackpot.
In the final segment of Black’s presentation, he provided quintessential tips when working with archives. Black suggests that timing is everything, but beware of the “macro pull” when dealing with archival work. He also reiterates the importance of establish relationships along the way, especially with the individuals who obtain the desired information. In addition, Black states that researching requires reflexivity. Lastly, Black emphasizes the importance of sensory pleasures that can derive from working hands on with archival materials. He goes on to explain that being exposed to the “raw rhetoric” of Milk’s files gave a more human side to the story being captured.