On this 9-minute video from Marginal Revolution University, at about the 2:40 point, is told the tale of Claudia Goldin, as a Ph.D. student, going down to the South to get archival data on the economics of slavery and the post-Civil War South.

Narrator: She had to travel to some southern states to gather archival materials for this research. Goldin didn’t approach this trip like a traditional economist.

Lawrence Katz [Claudia’s husband]:  She thought what I should do is hitchhike between the different cities in the South. She met some woman from one of the archives who let her stay at their place, and when she came back, her advisor asked her for a list of the receipts and expenses associated with the trip, and she had no clue that you were supposed to actually stay in hotels and pay for actual travel and that you could get reimbursed for this.

But in fact, by actually staying with the archivist and getting access to archives and knowledge that you wouldn’t have had, it probably created inroads and understanding that wouldn’t have been possible if you were going through usual channels.

In February 1975, when I was doing archival research for my Ph.D. dissertation on the economics of safety legislation in underground coal mines, I flew to Washington and spent a whole afternoon digging in the United Mine Workers’ library. Had I done the Claudia version, I would have tried to stay with the librarian.