Let me tell you how I first met Fannie Ingram Schwahn. How I was browsing the local antique store a summer or so back when there, buried amid the flotsam and jetsam, I came upon a wedding certificate dated June 5, 1922. Fannie was listed as the bride, and though I knew nothing of her—had never even heard her name—I was entranced, nonetheless by her story. Or rather, the story of how her marriage certificate had made its ways into my hands.
We all know libraries are great resources for writing. What isn’t always considered, however, is the intense power of archives for creative writers. What separates archives from the rest of the materials kept in libraries is that the vast majority of archival materials are unpublished. We can only truly know them, the stories they contain, the bits of brilliant light, by spending some time with them. Though we know archives as essential to the fact-finding part of research, not everyone sees them as essential to the creative part. But there are stories in archives, stories waiting to be told, and wading through the records for these gems is the tragically beautiful part of archival research.