UFO Conjecture(s)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How to do UFO research [Redux]

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica

A piece in The New York Review of Books [January 9th 2014 issue], The Good Way to do History by Robert Darton reviews a 1989 book by noted historian Arlette Farge: The Allure of the Archives. [Page 52 ff.]

The import of Farge’s book is that one can find accurate historical information in all the archived materials extant, if one has the stamina and wherewithal to prevail in light of what archives consist of.

Mr. Darton, the reviewer, makes the point that the book, just now translated from the French, was written before the web was prominent and the internet the primary source for persons who, wrongfully, think they are getting at the truth of things by searching for information contained via it, the internet, that is.

Darton writs, “The Allure of the Archives should give pause to anyone who thinks it possible to get an adequate picture of the past by looking at a computer screen.” [Page 52]

Now, I know some UFO researchers and investigators (Friedman, Randle, et al.) have doggedly searched various archives – military, governmental, business, et cetera. – for information to substantiate or clarify UFO details.

But Farge suggests that such scrutiny is often cavalier and without proper or sensible procedure:

“Researchers] may feel sympathy for the obscure [information they] encounter but shouldn’t identify with it or you will project your concern on [it]. Keep a critical distance from the material …

Resist the temptation to add fictitious touches about what people thought and felt.” [Page 54, emended by me somewhat]

Darton continues, “The Allure of the Archives can serve as a user’s manual for anyone who undertakes archival research, but it can be read most profitably by anyone who is curious about how history is concocted.” [Page 54]

Farge is quoted thusly about her concept of “the torrent of singularities”:

“Behind every case in the thousands of dossiers … is a singular individual who cannot be assimilated in a general proposition, because there is always another individual whose experience will contradict it. Few historians have wrestled with this problem, because few have attempted to see patterns by examining all the lives exposed in vast stretches of documents.” [Page 54]

Farge collaborated with Michel Foucault and her methodology is best explained in her 1982 book with him, Le Désordre des familles: Lettres de cachet des Archives de la Bastille au XVIIIͤ siecle.

Will UFO researchers/investigators read Farge’s book, and apply the techniques suggested so that they will gain a better understanding of what actually transpired during a UFO encounter or sighting, or how archival material may have been and is compromised by bias and direct subornation, as was the case with the various Haut affidavits about his Roswell press release?

I suppose not.

It seems that most persons interested in UFOs think what they read or get online is enough to provide the truth of things.

Darton via Farge tells us that is not the case.



  • Another facet of any historical account in terms of archival material is context and this does not have to rely on opinion in order to place accounts in an accurate setting. “Wonders In The Sky” could have been more fleshed out in this regard according to my own perspective.

    The background of the Roswell event in the context of the high level of concurrent Soviet nuclear espionage is one example as well as the counter-espionage misdirections of attention parlayed by the U.S in terms of planted red herrings. Without a context many historical events naturally fold in upon themselves without being integrated fully into the environment in which they occurred.

    There is a crying need for professional historians and investigative journalists to provide ongoing continued education rather than the goofy meanderings of most national seminars.

    Related to this subject is the archival research of historical accounts regarding sightings in an international context that seems to be a missing key ingredient. There is no international clearinghouse or archive for historical research which would be an invaluable tool.

    I belong to several national organisations of a historical nature that requires ongoing financial subscriptions and a dedicated full time staffing and while a international clearing house for reports sounds daunting, but it could be done as many a similar effort that requires ground up fund raising that has succeeded over many a decade in preserving archival materials.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, December 26, 2013  

  • I am twigged beyond words.

    Sure hope that the local library buys a copy, i've read a bit of Foucault and of course find his approach quite bracing (bad adjective, but i can't think of a better at the moment and my brother's headed over for a haircut soon).

    Regarding the study of signs in the sky and meetings with strange humanoids, i've been advocating looking to the disciplines used by various disciplines for years now - you could have knocked me over with a feather when i saw your post here!

    Very happy, this looks like an excellent reference and i am certain someone or other will pick up on it. Watching an intellectual perform stupendous feats is one thing, one taking you in hand, as it were, and pointing out what and how to do is quite another and much more useful.

    Now i speed directly over the cliff of topic into the void of the off, sorry Mr. Reynolds maybe just put your hands over your eyes? - this entry put me in mind of my sister's and my old powder blue Chevy Vega, which bombed around Berkeley and environs in the early 1980's. We'd outfitted our pony with a Michel Foucault memorial matchbook, installed right over the drive shaft (from The Stud, natch).

    I'll leave my reminiscences of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Phone for another day.

    ah, youth. Happy Day All!!! steph

    By Blogger tinyjunco, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • Steph...

    You're quite mad, you know.

    (Have a Happy New Year, and I'm sure you will.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • Rich, awhile back when researching a "hot" UFO/Nuke/ICBM past encounter, I accessed the declassified "US ICBM History" by Bernard Nalty. I painstakingly went over all of the minutia of factoids and a pattern did emerge.

    That pattern revealed not one iota of information on UFOs, but did reveal why most of the document was classified...the financial data, that is, what we were spending in each fiscal year to field and maintain the various ICBM systems.

    Plus, it showed that McNamara was very paranoid about the possibilities of an accidental/unauthorized launch, hence the additional upgrades (increased cost) to the various systems.

    So, not one hint of UFO activity over our ICBM bases, but a plethora of interesting information in other obscure areas.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • ...in my humble opinion, Randle is the most serious archive researcher among 'ufologists'...

    By Blogger Kurt Peters, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • KP...

    You're always the jokester.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • Grant Cameron is probably the best archives researcher active today. He doesn't have the intelligence to understand or interpret what he finds, but he's a tireless digger. Brad Sparks used to be the best - he seems to be out of it all now.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • By the way, you can do basic archival research on line now, but getting to the archives themselves is still the only way to be even remotely comprehensive.

    In Canada, the first place to look for UFO records is the National Archives, located in Ottawa, Ontario. They maintain a varied group of records relating to how Canada dealt with the UFO phenomenon over a period of decades, beginning in the late 1940s, and extending into the 1990s.

    Here's where to look:

    1. Records of the Department of Transport (RG 12)

    The Department of Transport kept reports on UFO sightings between 1976 and 1978.

    Transportation; general; Unidentified Flying Objects, 1976-1978 (RG 12, vol. 3930, file 2-1-33, pt. 1)

    2. Records of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RG 18)

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police kept reports of UFO sightings from 1959 and 1987.

    National research; Radio and Electrical Engineering Division; Unidentified Flying Objects (sighting of), 1959-1987 (RG 18, vol. 3779, file HQ 400-Q-5, pts. 1-7)

    3. Records of the Department of National Defence (RG 24)

    DND kept numerous reports on the possible security risk UFOs could pose.

    Intelligence sightings of unknown objects, 1947-1964 (RG 24, vol. 17984, file S-940-5, pts. 1 and 2; on reel T-3291) (See: Note 1)

    Intelligence sightings of unknown objects, 1950-1964 (RG 24, vol. 17988, file C-940-105, pts. 1 and 2; on reel T-3291), (See: Note 1)

    Intelligence sightings of unknown objects outside Canada, 1950-1952 (RG 24, vol. 17988, file S-940-105-3; on reel T-3291) (See: Note 1)

    Counter intelligence; flying saucers, 1952-1957 (RG 24, vol. 22349, file 9150-4)

    Target detection; search; flying saucers; general, 1950-1967 (RG 24, acc. 83-84/167, box 7523, file DRBS 3800-10-1, pt. 1)

    Target detection; search; flying saucers; general, 1968-1973 (RG 24, vol. 24031, file 3800-10-1, pt. 2, 1968-1971 and pt. 3, 1971-1973)

    4. Records of the National Research Council (RG 77)

    The National Research Council has looked into the scientific validity of UFO claims.

    UFO sightings, 1965-1981 (RG 77, reels T-1741 to T-1744)

    UFO sightings
    (RG 77, acc. 1985-86/179, box 1 (1981-1984);
    (RG 77, acc. 1986-87/377, box 1 (1986);
    (RG 77, acc. 1989-90/005, box 1 (1987);
    (RG 77, acc. 1989-90/016, box 1 (1988);
    (RG 77, acc. 1990-91/073, box 1 (1989);
    (RG 77, acc. 1991-92/022, box 1 (1990);
    (RG 77, acc. 1992-93/016, box 1 (1991);
    (RG 77, acc. 1992-93/308, box 1 (1992);
    (RG 77, acc. 1995-96/008, box 1 (1993);
    (RG 77, acc. 1995-96/096, box 1 (1994);
    (RG 77, acc. 1997-98/046, box 1 (1995).

    For contextual information on the NRC's collecting of UFO sightings, refer to the correspondence included on microfilm reel T-1744, as well as:

    Proceedings of the meetings of the Associate Committee on Meteorites (RG 77, acc. 1997-98/094, box 34), 11th meeting, 1967 and 12th meeting, 1968

    5. Records of the Department of Communications (RG 97)

    Air services; sightings of unidentified aerial objects; Project Second Story, 1952-1953 (RG 97, vol. 115, file 5010-4)

    Space research and satellites, UFO's, 1953-1966 (RG 97, vol. 182, file 5010-4, pts. 1 and 2)

    Space research and technology, 1959-1964 (RG 97, vol. 104, file 5010-1, pts. 1-3)

    Note (1) Available in part for research purposes at the National Archives only. This file has been reviewed in accordance with Access to Information and Privacy legislation. Some documents have been removed from the file; deletions are indicated on file.

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • How extensive/complete are those archives, Paul?

    The import of Farge's methods also has to do with items tangential to the archived material itself: paper, markings by archivists and others, along with elements that allow one to flesh out the total context (or something near that) of the period and lives of those named in the archived materials.

    For UFOs, some of that isn't necessary but one would have to be very discerning about what to ignore and what not to ignore.

    No one, in ufology, had ever done that although I imagine your uncle (Stan) has been more thorough than most.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • Those archives are really just the starting point in Canada, Rich. You have to look beyond the obvious places that someone has already organized for you (although you should always start there). For example, a few years ago I went through all of Hansard, the records of the debates in the House of Commons, looking for references to not only UFOs but also strange aerial phenomena. To my knowledge, no-one had ever done that before, even though it would seem to be an obvious first step. I found moments where a future Premier of Manitoba and Governor-General of Canada, Ed Schreyer, was very interested in the Michalak case, as just one example, and pressing for information from the government. Does that prove Michalak met aliens from Zeta Reticuli (or even that he wasn't hoaxing)? Of course not, but you need as full and complete a picture as you can get.

    It's a long and to most people tiresome process (I find in thrilling, on the other hand, because you're seeing history in action), and so they prefer to take the easy route and just make up stories, or cherry pick things that fit their own pre-conceived ideas. But as you point out, that's not real research.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • As an historian, Paul, you know the fundamentals of research.

    In the UFO domain there is a dearth of academically trained persons so we have been stuck with shoddy research-like endeavors fraught with all the vicissitudes of glib amateurism.

    But I'm preaching to the choir...


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • In the UFO domain there is a dearth of academically trained persons so we have been stuck with shoddy research-like endeavors fraught with all the vicissitudes of glib amateurism.

    That sums it up perfectly, and perhaps no-one better symbolizes this than Stan Friedman, who is a very intelligent man with significant training in his field of employment as a younger man (nuclear physics), but who had absolutely no training in either oral research methodology or archival and general historical research. But that's typical of the "big names" over the past several decades, so it's not directed just at Stan.

    It could be worse. He could have been Budd Hopkins or David Jacobs!

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • But Stan Friedman examples that legendary maxim:

    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • The guy who should have been able to act responsibly was Rich Dolan, who actually has the kind of social sciences training / education that we're talking about, but his work is a kind of shoddy pseudo-history that would have gotten him drummed out of grad school if he had presented it as a thesis. He's a perfect example of the triumph of belief (and increasingly, commercial interests).


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • Well, you know, Paul, as well as or better than me, that doing exemplary work about UFOs for that community would be "casting pearls before swine" pretty much.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

  • This book sounds really interesting and I'll seek it out!

    Until every jot and tittle of everything ever has been digitized and placed online (in open repositories), we'll need to go to archives--I greatly enjoy the process (though probably not as much as Paul seems to!).

    The best thing about archival work, for me, is the serendipity--finding a letter, diary entry, Congressional speech, whatever--that I wasn't looking for, and that answered some key question. When one goes into an archive (or a website-equivalent) with a pre-determined conclusion (rather than questions or hunches)--as some in "the field" might--one is closed off to that archival serendipity.

    As a historian, you're trained to interrogate, whether it be people, documents, the surrounding cultural/social/political context. It does take practice, and I don't think you necessarily need to be a "professional" historian, but you need to have that historian ethic.

    Some basic critical thinking skills are useful too :)

    By Blogger AJG, at Saturday, December 28, 2013  

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