Based in Washington DC, I possess an intimate familiarity with the collections housed at the major DC-area repositories. As a Yale-trained, practicing and published historian, my work meets the exacting standards required of professional historians.
A flexible thinker with an insatiable curiosity, I can tackle any assignment that lands on my desk. I look forward to discussing with you how my talents can contribute to the success of your project.
You can read more about my qualifications here.
My practical working knowledge of the major DC-area repositories includes:
Archival Document Retrieval
When you already know what you are looking for, but cannot get to the archive, I can scan or copy the contents of a specific range of boxes or folders.
Historical research for academics, journalists, writers of historical fiction and non-fiction
I offer open-ended research assistance for longer term projects. You can also read more about my research design skills and methodology in this interview about my work with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice project.
I also offer research and writing in support of museum exhibits (including script and label writing), television, film and other cultural productions.
Minimum charge: one hour.
Free consultation for potential projects.
I do not bill for regular travel time to DC-area repositories accessible via public transportation. You will only be billed for the actual time spent on your project and any actual expenses such as photocopy charges. When working in an archive, my billable time starts when I enter the building and ends when I leave the building.
Select List of Prior Clients:
Professor Margaret Burnham (Director, Civil Rights & Restorative Justice Project, Northeastern Law)
The work of our project, Civil Rights & Restorative Justice, Northeastern University School of Law, requires access to records that are archived outside of Boston –the DOJ, FBI, and War Department, as well as NAACP files located in Washington and elsewhere. But it’s not just the lack of proximity that makes these records difficult to access; real expertise is required to master these archives and to understand their relationship to each other and to other collections. In my experience, I can say that Dr. Driskell possesses that expertise. He knows the NAACP files inside/out, and he is fully competent with legal materials in government files. His work is reliable, accurate, and thorough. I have benefited enormously from his services, and it has been a pleasure to work with him.
Professor Beverly Gage (Department of History, Yale University)
It is rare to come across a researcher with Jay Driskell’s creativity, initiative, and historical training. He is a true professional: efficient and responsive, but also full of insight and suggestions. Plus, he really knows his archives!
Professor Cindy Hahamovitch (Department of History, University of Georgia – Athens)
Jay is magic. I had FOIA’d FBI records but 9 months later: crickets. I knew there would be records on my subject in DC because the man I’m researching was investigated extensively, required to testify before a Senate committee and was the subject of public testimony by J. Edgar Hoover, but I couldn’t get up to DC to look. In a week, Jay had turned up a ton of stuff and had gotten rapid responses to his FOIA requests. He is a seasoned scholar, author, teacher, archival and oral historian, so he knows what questions to ask and can find things you didn’t even know you were looking for. Ecstatically recommended.
Dr. William L. Fox, President Emeritus (St. Lawrence University)
Jay Driskell is in a league with the best research librarians and archivists anywhere, but with the distinctive advantage of knowing intrinsically the historian’s craft. He understands how much context matters in fitting together the puzzle pieces. His pursuit of evidence seems to be fueled by catnip. He not only touches every page, as the eminent biographer Robert Caro admonishes writers and researchers always to do, he provides insights that first readers of a manuscript often miss. Having Jay’s help, I came to realize, was a necessity, not merely a convenience or luxury.
Professor Dan Berger (Department of History, University of Washington – Bothell)
I hired Jay to conduct several small, distinct but overlapping research projects in connection with a book I am writing. He approached each one with tremendous diligence and attention. He is a thorough, meticulous, and organized researcher. He not only identified valuable sources that I had asked him to find but prepared thoughtful reports that brought in relevant scholarly literature or other interpretive work that helped identify new connections and avenues for analysis. What a gift!
Professor Paige Glotzer (Department of History, University of Wisconsin – Madison)
Jay made starting a new project easy thanks to his extensive knowledge of the National Archives and Records Administration collections and unbeatable attention to detail. While I initially felt like I was asking Jay to find a needle in a haystack, each time I read one of his beautifully organized reports I gained a better sense of just how much was archivally possible. Thanks to his thorough research, I now have the foundations for a new historical monograph. I look forward to working with him again.
Professor Veronica Martinez-Matsuda (University of California – San Diego)
It’s difficult to capture just how exceptional Jay is at his work! Despite all of the challenges that COVID-19 presented, Jay successfully managed to get what I needed (and so much more I didn’t know I needed!) from the National Archives. He’s so experienced that in addition to carrying out the research I requested, he regularly answered questions about how certain archives are organized and what the process of requesting particular documents looks like. Beyond his archival knowledge, his expertise as a historian—particularly, on matters of U.S. civil rights, labor, and race—also gave me great confidence in his findings and recommendations. I was always so appreciative of his detailed research reports, email updates, and conversations over the phone/zoom. I can’t recommend Jay highly enough!
Tim Galsworthy (University of Sussex, UK)
Due to COVID-19, I was unable to make a planned trip to Washington DC, where I intended to access archival materials at the Library of Congress which are crucial to my PhD thesis. I hired Jay as an independent researcher to access these files on my behalf. What a wise move! Jay reproduced materials from a range of collections, including the papers of Edward Brooke and Jackie Robinson. He worked diligently and speedily, getting through a large amount of material each day. My list of requests was lengthy and at times complicated, including different priorities from numerous collections. Jay navigated my requests superbly and supplied all the materials I required. He was also responded promptly to emails. The archival materials Jay helped me to access are invaluable for my doctoral study of Civil War memory and the Republican Party in the 1960s.
Neil Shea and Taylor Hom, Market Road Films
During our investigation of an unsolved lynching from 1954, Jay Driskell has been an unparalleled guide and advisor, helping us shape our questions and consider where to look for answers. He has found for us crucial documents, missed even by the FBI, and he has helped us to understand the murder within the context of its terrifying era. Jay knows history. He knows where its records reside. With his help we are a few steps closer to shutting a case that’s been open for nearly 70 years.
Professor William Sturkey (Department of History, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill)
Dr. Jay Driskell was a pleasure to work with. He is very talented, experienced, and knowledgeable. In fact, he helped me navigate some restrictions placed on the Caspar Weinberger papers I had requested at the Library of Congress. I’d highly recommend him for any historian or scholar who needs research assistance in the DC area.
Professor Rosaria Franco (School of International Studies, University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China)
The service provided by Jay Driskell Historical Research and Consulting was excellent. I was impressed by the speed of the service and the quality of the material produced. As I am based in Asia, in my case, it was also an investment.
Katie Joice (Birkbeck College, London)
Jay is an efficient, reassuring and astute person to work with. I was in search of several thousand documents from the Library of Congress archives for a PhD dissertation and was unable to travel there myself from the UK. Jay took everything in hand and sent digital copies of all the papers I needed within a matter of weeks. He clearly knows his archives (and his history) inside out and I would very happy to entrust him with investigative research in the future. Highly recommended.
Matt O’Neal (University of Georgia – Athens)
I worked with Jay to obtain documents at the National Archives and could not be more pleased with the whole experience. He kept me updated throughout the process and got me exactly what I needed. Go with Jay, he is a first-rate researcher!
Louise W. Knight, Author and Historian
Jay Driskell brings a wealth of experience to his research in archives, and I was delighted with what he was able to dig up for me. He knows how to think outside the box of what you asked him to find, and that is invaluable.
Professor Andreas Malm (Department of Human Geography, Lund University, Sweden)
If you ever need someone to help you retrieving documents, Jay Driskell is your man: reliable and quick and committed.
Dr. Daniel Katz (Provost, National Labor College):
Jay Driskell is a gifted teacher and scholar who was the principal architect of the Living Labor History course at the National Labor College. That hybrid course combined distance learning with an intense week in residence, and became the cornerstone of our labor studies curriculum. Cutting edge in its design, Dr. Driskell solicited interviews with renowned labor historians, created a broad variety of content capable of engaging students in every mode of pedagogy, and built a curriculum that was easy for other instructors to pick up and use in later semesters. Driskell’s labor history curriculum was crucial in preparing our students for their next steps in higher education.