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Thank goodness for the early brainstorm rolling in, because suddenly I’m feeling that there will be barely enough time in the semester to take care of business.  The resulting rain brought me a thesis topic in the form of petroglyph analysis down at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in the Mogollon region of New Mexico.  I knew I wanted to use an iconographic framework, and this gives me the opportunity to do both fieldwork and formal analysis, along with cultural contextualization.  Basically it will be an integration of everything that makes me love art historical research in general and the ancient art of New Mexico in particular.   And those petroglyphs are personal to me – one of them is even tattooed on my shoulder.

Being the academic masochist that I am, instead of recycling an old research paper for symposium, I have decided to present the theoretical framework for my thesis – which means I have little more than a month to get a draft ready.  The topic for my methodological problems paper for the Native American seminar is going to be the potential applications and limitations of using a linguistic/narratological approach to rock art analysis, and this is the foundation I plan to use for my research this summer and fall.  If my thesis flies, it will pave the way for a theoretical framework that has only been applied in Mesoamerican art.  If it doesn’t, I will be shot down at symposium.  I know the risks are there, but so is the possibility for true academic contribution.  If I don’t go for it, I will always know I chose the easy way out, which flies in the face of all the reasons I’m in grad school in the first place.

It helps that I have the full support of my professor, whose advice to climb out on some limbs and make bold statements has helped to give me the confidence I need.  As much as I have enjoyed my past research, to a certain extent it has all been regurgitation.  This feels original and important.  This feels like my Big Idea.

It was not exactly a revelation that I will be writing my thesis in the near future.  I have been brainstorming research topics for the past 2 years (and in a broader sense for much of my adult life).  Even so, this past week has been something of a wake-up call. 

I started my Native American methodology seminar, where we will be exploring the theoretical frameworks of art history from the perspective of Native art.  This will be extremely useful to me in framing my own theoretical position as well as giving structure to my research.  Our assignments are geared towards our individual projects, including an annotated bibliography of sources we plan to use in our theses.  That’s where the sudden panic set in…to create a bibliography I need a topic! Which means I need to formalize a thesis advisor, figure out when I will take thesis credits, etc…

The good news is it got me brainstorming in overdrive and inspired me to go in and check on my program of study in the grad office.  I am very much on track, just need to actually go through the motions.  I have a more solid idea now for a thesis topic.  The plan at this point is to get some feedback from my (potential) thesis advisor and get plugging away on the semester’s research, preparing for spring symposium, and setting the foundation for my thesis work this summer and fall.

I am most fully engaged when I am researching something that I’m truly passionate about, which is why I found myself at 6:30 on a Sunday morning compiling my bibliography and tentatitive outline for a project considering the feather motifs in the murals at Teotihuacan for my Ancient American Narratives class.  Who needs sleep when you have iconographic analysis? My approach takes into consideration the research I did a couple years ago on bird and feather iconography on Pueblo pottery, and I guess in the back of my mind is a percolating thesis topic on an ancient  pan-American manifestation of transculturation through mythological and iconographic exchange.

I remember (not so long ago, really) the days when I could not wait to graduate from student/paraprofessional to professional honest-to-goodness librarian. What was I thinking?

Everything is better, easier, and cheaper when you’re a student. You get reduced conference and association membership rates. You get all sorts of support and freebies from your school, such as informal & formal mentoring, advice, web-hosting, even software. And, perhaps most importantly, you get all those great databases and journal subscriptions online and at your fingertips 24/7. I was dually spoiled in this regard at my last position as Electronic Resources Associate, where it was literally my job to play (not quite the right word) around with our electronic subscriptions.

As I haven’t been involved in any serious research for awhile, I haven’t had much need for scholarly journals. However, occasionally I come across an article that I really want to read. And I would like to continue to do research in the field – it’s sort of my professional duty. But rather than being redirected to a happy little PDF link, I get a screen asking me if I would like to shell out $25 for a single article.

To all you students out there…while I know you’re counting down the days until graduation and don’t think you can do one more search in Academic Search Premier…count your blessings. So jot down just one more reason that libraries rock (and kiss your nearest acquisitions librarian – juggling those subscription budgets ain’t easy!).