|The Lilly Library at IU Bloomington|
Here is a list of some of the things I have learned in my five previous trips to the archive at Indiana University (as well as a few generally applicable things to keep in mind when working in libraries):
1. You'll only be allowed to work with one folder in one box at a time.
2. Ensure that the folder and all the papers with the folder remain fully on the desk at all times. Do not let anything hang over the edge. You will be reprimanded.
3. Keep the papers in the folders that you work with in the order in which you find them. If something's not right, consult with someone on staff.
4. Because of the "Transitions" exhibit in the Lilly Library, something like 70 items will not be available for scruntiny in the reading room. You'll have to visit the exhibition space to see them. These include some of her diaries, books from her personal library and poetry drafts, as well as items such as her extravagant childhood paper dolls, suitcase and unpublished letters from husband Ted Hughes.
5. Photography of materials is limited. Some libraries allow for rampant, free photography of their collections; however, each library is, as I have said, different. Consult with a librarian/archivist to determine what can and cannot be photographed.
6. Transcribe until your fingers blister.
7. It might be chilly in there so bring a sweater. Remember: archives are not about human comfort. They are about making the paper and other holdings last.
Of course, I'm certain there are more things to keep in mind, but these are what I can think of right now!
If you are going to be conducting research before or after the Symposium, I hope you enjoy yourself. If you do not have a blog or some other outlet in which to talk about the experience, please consider this blog as a welcome space to write about your time. I'd love to have guest posts and am sure the blogs readers would love to read your impressions. I think the most important thing to remember is that it is a privilege to work with Plath's papers (or really, any collection within an archive). Enjoy the archive. Respect it. I hope that at any given moment I am not working with something that another researcher is keen to have access to. If you think I might be, just let me know and I'll request something else.
As for my own research plans, in the past I have blogged nightly about my experiences in the archive. See the posts from my January 2012 trip to Smith College and from my January 2010 trip to the Lilly Library. I hope I don't repeat myself in my forthcoming updates (next week!), but I do find that by re-examining certainly materials, new information can be learned because of shifting perspectives. I have a couple of things I need to look at from Plath mss (the materials they bought during Plath's lifetime!) for one of my papers; but the most effort will likely be spent in Plath mss II, which is undoubtedly the largest focus for many people.