Archive Stories is the result of academic curiosity, summer travels… and a few emails. When Hope College English professor Dr. Natalie Dykstra first met with Abigail Altman, assistant director of the American Library in Paris (ALP), during her May 2017 research trip to Paris, she had an idea: could the ALP and Hope College benefit from each other and collaborate? The ALP is bursting with archives that not only have potential for student and faculty research, but that also require sorting and more detailed finding aids. Yes, Altman replied. Students would gain experience in the library archives and have a chance to work in Paris; the Library would benefit from the energy and ideas of the students and the experience of faculty.
Together, Altman and Dykstra ran with the possibility, and after a year of emails and coordinating plans, she returned to Paris in May 2018 with two students to begin work in the ALP archives. The team was funded by a summer travel grant from Grand Challenges at Hope College | Mellon Foundation and coordinated its efforts in connection with the Hope College Paris May Term.
We – student researchers Michaela Stock and Sarah Lundy – are both major francophiles, having been to Paris before and knowing French. When we were presented with the chance to return to Paris and work in the ALP archives alongside Dykstra, we packed our suitcases tout de suite! As French and Art History/History students, we couldn’t wait to dig into an opportunity that was not only personally invigorating but academically pertinent. Getting to know the library’s incredible staff, working tirelessly in the archives, and tasting the Parisian way of life resulted in a rewarding two weeks. This website is, in many ways, a digital exhibit of our work there that can grow with the addition of future projects. Hope College is excited to continue its relationship with the American Library in Paris and hopes to send a small group of students to the its archives, alongside a professor, every May.