THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

12 April 2011

Guest Post: Finn's work experience reflections

Last week, Finn Mactaggart, currently studying history at Exeter University, interned with Team Americas.  Here are some of his reflections: 

As the largest collection of Americana outside of the United States itself, learning how to access the collection took time; but I now feel well-equipped to tackle future research projects.

As a strapped-for-cash student, the range of freely-accessible materials is refreshing. I was initially drawn to the Early American Encounters catalogue; full of stunning visual sources of the novel flora and fauna encountered in the New World, it provides a great entry-point for fledgling historians. Taking advantage of some time for independent research, I browsed the Digital National Security Archive for some documents related to the United States’ relationship with Suharto and the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. My research revealed a sinister character to the annexation:

SECRETARY KISSINGER: There are no moral lessons to be learned from this?
MR HABIB: Yes. The moral lesson is that we have the guns to go in. (Laughter.)

I began also to understand some of the lack of attention the issue received at the time when I read Kissinger‚Äôs secretary suggest that 'keeping our mouth shut about the thing'  would be the right course of action; Kissinger instead opted that the White House 'influence the reaction'. Meanwhile, Indonesia, would 'try to mask its continuing military presence'.


Establishing an unmediated relationship with these sources was liberating. History students often rely on established opinions without doing their own research and with modern technological innovations personal research has become so easy. A trip to the ‚ÄėGrowing Knowledge‚Äô exhibit showed me just how many new ways individuals can interrogate sources that go beyond a cursory glance at a free user-generated encyclopaedia.

[FM]

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