Honors Course Reflections

Ashley Montgomery: Blog 1

Exterior of Capitol Building in the bright sun.

Capitol Building

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This is a fabulous quote from Charles Dickens to explain how the last few days of the Supreme Court experience has been. My peers and I have worked with the Supreme Court Justice’s papers for about two days now and the experience has been accompanied with a whirlwind of emotions. Being a chemistry major, working with the Supreme Court Justice’s papers has pushed me out of my academic comfort zones in the best ways possible, but has been an uncomfortable and stressful experience nonetheless! Rather than learning about the interactions of atoms with the environment, trying to figure out the complex nature of interactions between justices is a whole other ball game.

Ashley stands in front of the Supreme Court with her hands in her coat pockets.

Supreme Court Steps

Initially, our trip began with a very early start Monday morning by arriving at 4:30 am to DFW airport and then flying into D.C. around 10 am. This day was jam packed with sightseeing, such as touring the Capitol building, walking around the National Mall, and then ending the sight seeing with a lovely dinner at “We, the Pizza” – the absolute coolest name for a pizza place. After, we all came back to our hotel to wind down and get ready for the busy day of researching ahead of us.

The next morning, we began our journey into the scholarly world of research at the large marble Madison building in the Library of Congress. This is where “the worst of times” comes into play. Receiving the boxes and flipping through the papers for the first time was incredibly overwhelming. There were so many moments I would stare at the documents lost and confused, but eventually over time and with some reassurance from Professor Kobylka, the stress died down a little. Other than the initial panic at the start of the day, the day presented a great day of trial and error of how to research through the Justice’s papers and how to implement those strategies for the upcoming week in order to gather as much important data as possible.

A slip of paper entitled Manuscript Division Collection Request sits on top of a macbook keyboard. Ashley Montgomery has filled the request out with her name, date 3/12/19, table number 36, and the following details: Box 1:102 from the William J. Brennan's Papers Collection.

Manuscript Division Collection Request

The next day, Tuesday, after some trial and error from the first day, was WAY more relaxed. This is where the “best of times” comes into play. After having the initial alarm from Monday, Tuesday was filled with surreal moments of realizing exactly what we are doing as a group and how cool the work we are doing actually is. This is the first time for many of us, including me, to dive into the world of scholarly research. Instead of sitting in large lecture halls and being told what to learn, we are guiding our own learning, which is an incredible experience, especially for an undergrad! Each day, I have discovered different information about the development of libel, my research topic, and each case provides new insights from Justice’s memos and their strategic actions that can help answer my research. Not only is it interesting to research about the cases, but it’s so fun to find quirky comments from the justices that gives a glimpse of their personalities. This is information I could only find here at the Library of Congress and am sure to expand upon this insight with the upcoming days ahead.

As said above, there are still a couple days left of researching at the Library of Congress but I am so in awe of this whole research experience. Everyday is a new learning experience to learn about the justices and even about what it’s like to be a scholar. This is the beginning in to what I hope to be a life filled with academic discovery!

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