Archive for November 1st, 2011

Field notes

1 November 2011

By Juliana Adelman

My dad recently sent me a kind of odd little book entitled Field Notes on Science and Nature.  The book is a compilation of essays on the form, history and importance of field notes to which are added several examples of field notes.  As the title suggest, the field notes in question are of those of scientific naturalists.  The arrival was timely, since I am today beginning my participation in the Mass Observation Dublin 2011 project.  The book got me thinking about the obvious ways in which our recording of information has changed dramatically, not only in form but in substance.  The substance of what we record is affected by the forms we use to record it.  The contributors to Field Notes argued for the importance of recording by hand, of making drawings as a part of observation and of keeping records of information in an open-minded way.  They suggested that natural history students should try to be a bit more like Darwin and a bit less reliant on digital media.  It made me stop to wonder what a historian’s field note book might look like?  How many of you still take notes on paper or do you take them all on laptops?  What kinds of notes do you take on paper and what kinds on computers?  Archaeologists, geographers and art historians might find that they still use visual means of recording from sketches to digital photographs.  I know that I often take photographs to record texts for later transcription, or occasionally to remember visual aspects of a manuscript or book.  But on the whole, I don’t see too many historians with sketchbooks. Read more