Monday, January 26, 2015

What Does Research Look Like When You Are Retired?

Dome of Szeged Syngogue.  Lipot Baumhorn architect.

When I tell people I am going to Budapest for three months, some of them look a little puzzled.  I think that is partly because Hungary (especially in the winter) is not the kind of obvious place to do a big retirement trip in the way France, Italy or the UK might be.  But I hope if you follow along with me on this blog, you will get a sense of why Tony and I love it so much.

When I say three months in Budapest, I often get a follow up question: "are you going there for research?"  Well, this is actually a complicated question that is difficult to answer.  No, I am not going there to do research of the sort I did when I was a working academic.  But yes, along with indulging in a whole range of other pleasures, I am going there to follow a research-like trail. If you have been reading my blog, you will know I am fascinated with Hungarian Secessionist architecture.  This fascination is grounded in aesthetic pleasure, but it is not just that.  I want to know about these buildings: their history, context and meaning.  I am hindered in my quest by my inability to understand the Hungarian language (and at this point in my life have to accept that this will always be the case). But I have done as much as I can: reading research written in English on Cental European architecture, hunting around the internet, asking friends who are knowledgable.

The main form of my research, though is looking carefully at buildings, taking pictures, and sorting pictures.  I have taken--literally--thousands of pictures. And in the act of looking, recording, sorting, I have built my understanding of how these buildings "work" inductively, following what perhaps might be called a kind of naive grounded theory.

I have been engaged in research and scholarship all of my adult life.  And that work has always been geared towards some kind peer-reviewed, academic publication.  What does research look like or even mean if it does not result in some kind of product?  And does that product have to be peer- reviewed for me to invest in it?  Would it be satisfying enough to put my (mostly picture) research on the web and hope that interested people will find it? Or do I have to find some kind of "publishing" outlet?

These questions may seem esoteric or even silly to some people.  But they are questions I have been pondering a good deal. Many people, I know, are continuing the research they did before retirement.  At the moment, this doesn't appeal to me.  So is there another kind of research I can engage in, and what would it look like?


  1. I'd guess one thing it looks like is your blog!

  2. Thanks! I had not quite thought of it that way. But it's a provocative idea.

  3. I've not done the sort of research you wrote about. Research to me has been pursuing an interest, idea or looking for needed information. Then coming upon what I've been looking for - or maybe something even more interesting - to end the original research, but perhaps send me off on a new search.