Last week, I started to assemble the basis of my paper and finish up my research. On Monday, I started writing the research paper with the information I’ve already gathered about the beginning of phrenology; most of it was in my previous blog post. I also finalized the list of books and microfilms I wanted to see at the various libraries. The part of the writing that I’m having the most trouble with is actually the personal reflection at the end. I know what I want to say about the piece, just not how to say it. I think once I’ve concluded some of the more abstract parts of my research, I’ll be able to better frame my personal opinions. That leads me to the next part of my week- abstract research! Due to some unfortunate red tape with the NYU library system, I wasn’t able to accompany Julia when she went to Bobst. However, on Wednesday afternoon, I went to the Schwarzman research library, which was wonderful. I spent most of my time reading and taking notes from Psychology’s Occult Doubles by Thomas Hardy Leahy. It had several chapters on phrenology and really focused more on the ideological side of the practice. The section that was most crucial to my research was about the eventual failure of phrenology and its connection to the Industrial Revolution. In Leahy’s view, phrenology was a philosophical practice, not just a business practice of the Fowler’s. Its downfall was due to it being ‘both too much of its time and too far ahead of its time,“ which I thought was a really interesting way of looking at it. I visited the N-YHS library, where I got additional insight into the philosophical ideas behind the practice and its downfall.
Visiting the N-YHS library was an amazing experience. Besides looking at some wonderful secondary sources, I was even able to look at a primary source written by the Fowler bros. themselves, which was really exciting. I then finished my research paper and personal reflection, which was a nice feeling of accomplishment. Now I’m focusing on my creative portion of the project, which is giving me a bit more trouble. I realized that even though the artifact itself is going to be in the Children’s Museum, my research paper isn’t really on a level that elementary schoolers would find interesting. Instead, I found that my paper contains topics that I was able to connect to some of the nineteenth century reform movements that I studied my junior year in my U.S. history course. Combined that with the language, I feel like my research would lend itself better to a slightly older age group. That’s all well and good, but I really wanted to contribute something that would make the artifact stand out and appeal to the younger visitors of the Children’s Museum. I’m exploring the idea of making a model of the head that people could touch and even try on to help them realize the concept of phrenology better. So far, I have several different possibilities, ranging from making a wearable model out of a swimcap to a paper mache creation to balloons. There’s also the concern that some of the younger kids might be upset if they get their heads “read” and don’t like the “analysis,” so I would have to include some disclaimers in any lesson plans! I’m still fleshing out the possibilities- and I have to write my Broadcastr script! Still, I feel like this is a good direction and I’m excited to put it all together.