Saturday, January 21, 2012
Hi there. Remember me?
After taking a few months off (in part for logistical reasons and in part because I just needed a little break from this very intense project), I'm happy to report that I've plunged back into Permanent Record. I've made new contact with several students' families and have leads for a bunch more. This research will form the basis of a new batch of articles that I'll be doing for Slate throughout this year, the first of which will probably run in about a month. Think of it as PermaRec 2.0.
I'm even happier to report that I had a major breakthrough last Friday, when I spoke on the phone with 95-year-old Rose Vrana (née Baggini -- that's her report card shown above, which you can click on to see a larger version), who attended Manhattan Trade in the early 1930s. This is the first time I've found a student from my report card collection who's still alive -- a tremendously exciting development!
As you might expect, Rose doesn't use a computer, so I couldn't e-mail scans of her report card to her or give her the link to the original Slate articles. Instead, I've made printouts and dropped them in the mail. She's a little confused by all the fuss I'm making over her and doesn't fully grasp what PermaRec is all about, but I'm hoping she'll understand a bit better and agree to let me interview her once she receives the materials I'm sending her.
I didn't find Rose by myself, incidentally. She was located by a volunteer researcher named Catherine Bloomquist, one of several Slate readers who took it upon themselves to start assisting me after reading PermaRec 1.0 last fall. Several of these volunteers hit varying degrees of pay dirt, and I'm grateful to all of them for their sleuthing efforts and their incredible spirit of generosity. But Catherine and another reader, Samantha Bulgerin, really hit the mother lode, tracking down literally dozens of leads. Among their many discoveries is this: One of the students may have gone on to design Mamie Eisenhower's 1953 inaugural ball dress! (I'm still waiting to hear back from that family -- stay tuned.) Thanks so much, Catherine and Sam -- you've completely reinvigorated the project.
More soon. Or at least soon-ish.