Featured ‘day in the life of’: Emma, a History PhD candidate studying decolonization in the Pacific

A Day in the life of Emma (History PhD candidate):

About me: My name is Emma and I’m a History PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. I work on the West Papuan independence movement in the 1960s and 1970s. For those non-historians, my project is essentially about indigenous rights movements, human rights and historical representation. I do a lot of work with archives and I’ve been lucky enough to get to travel to both the United Nations archives in New York and the National Archive and Library in Port Moresby, PNG. I recently started a blog (www.emmakluge.com) as a way of documenting my trips, processing what I was learning and sharing my experiences as a PhD student.

About the day: As mentioned, most of my original PhD work involves doing archival research. Although a lot of my archives are overseas there is a considerable amount of sources in Canberra, in the Australian government archives. I chose to document a day from a recent trip I took down to Canberra to examine files at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and the National Library of Australia (NLA). I’m lucky enough to have a friend I can stay with their so I can still maintain some of my normal PhD habits.

1. 7.0sss

7.08am: After snoozing my alarm and opting to stay in my nice warm bed for another few minutes (as a Sydney dweller I’m not used to the Canberra cold), I decide it’s time to get up.

2. 7.45am

7.45am: Sitting down to have breakfast is one of my favourite rituals of the day so I make sure to take time each morning to drink my coffee and have my bowl of GF cereal while doing some reading and reflecting on the day to come.

3. 8.45am

8.45am: Walk to the bus. I usually like to walk into the library or archives but since the morning is cold I decide to catch the bus.

4. 9.10am9.10am: I begin my day at the National Library in the café, planning out the files I want to look at and putting through requests to the reading room.

6. 12.20pm

12.20pm: Still in the reading room looking through the material. I go through a lot of stuff that isn’t useful before coming across this great Dutch government booklet from the 1960s (the things historians get excited about…)

7. 1.10pm

1.20pm: I take my lunch break. When I’m doing archival work I always try to go outside for lunch to make sure I get some fresh air and to go for a little walk to get the blood pumping. As an extrovert this is also time when I can get my social fill by calling friends or family.

8. 1.55pm

1.55pm: I walk over to the National Archives. Since it’s my first day of the trip I want to scope out all the files I need to get through this week so I can decide what my priorities should be.

9. 2.15pm

2.15pm: After checking in and collecting my files I find a seat by the window and start going through them. Since cameras are allowed I usually just skim the files and then if they are relevant I go through and photograph them so I can go back over them when I get back to uni. As I work my way through the files I make notes on how the file is composed, any interesting material or any thoughts I get about how I could use the files in my thesis.

10. 4.10pm

4.10pm: Still working through my stack of files, I had to relocate so there was room to fit my trolley of files.

11. 4.55pm

4.55pm: I return my trolley of archives and mark the files I need to look at again tomorrow.

12. 6.05pm

6.05pm: I watch some TV while importing the photos I took during the day and typing up my handwritten notes from the day.

13. 7.30pm

7.30pm: dinnertime.

14. 9.05pm

9.05pm: While watching TV I got inspired to bake (I’m low FODMAP so I have to make my own treats). I take my GF banana bread out of the oven and get it read to bring as a snack to the archives tomorrow.

15. 10.45pm

10.45pm: I make it into my nicely attired bed to get some sleep before jumping back into things again the next day.


I hope you all enjoyed Emma’s day- Don’t forget to check out her blog

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