Historians are used to traveling for research. Most graduate students and professors of history head to archives and specialized research libraries to consult manuscripts, rare books, and printed documents. Although a some important document collections have been digitized, the vast majority of archives may only be accessed by traveling to specialized collections. Archival research remains the vital field work of most historians.
A doctoral student in history at the University of Texas at Austin chronicles her experiences traveling to do archival research for her dissertation in a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Of course, this student’s research travels in the United States seem remarkably easy (and even quaint) compared with the complexities and costs of traveling to European, Asian, Latin American, or African archives. Doctoral students traveling to collections abroad normally have to deal with using foreign languages, employing other currencies, learning different housing procedures, navigating government bureaucracies, discerning archival policies, and appreciating local cultures.
But, then again, traveling abroad is part of the allure of studying the history of other cultures!