Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reason 6,453 to Love the Internet


I'm a historian. That means I like to gather lots of stuff for my research. And darn it, I like to research. When I went to the archives at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, for my master's thesis, I copied tons of documents and brought my husband along as my assistant. The curator of the museum completely understood my need to have all those documents (diaries and pictures and letters, oh my!) and said, "There's a saying with historians. Whoever has the most stuff wins."

The Internet has opened up an entirely new world of research and has enabled us to share information like never before.

Case in point.

I'm working on a novel set during the 1940s. For the past few days, I've been researching fashion of that time period. And lo and behold, I found this site which has vintage sewing patterns. For sale. Ok, ok, I confess, I have to keep my cursor off the "add to cart" button for these - but I can browse to my heart's content. Now I have a ton of fashion plates to look at - and I'm even thinking about sewing a few of these outfits, especially this one. Without the internet, I'd have to visit a museum or find someone who collected vintage patterns to find all of these.

Another case in point. I needed to know what it was like to fly in a Piper Cub airplane of the '40s. Lo and behold, I found a guy who bought one of these vintage airplanes, restored it to all its original parts, and then kept a log of when he took it out to fly it. He recorded everything, down to how it handled, the way it sounded, etc. This little find cut down dramatically on the time it would have taken me to locate someone who owned one of these.

Want to know what names were popular during a specific decade? The Social Security Administration's got you covered.

And check this out - I could spend hours on this site. It's Steven Spielberg's Film and Video Archive at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. You can actually watch video footage taken during World War II. Absolutely amazing.

I could go on and on. But. Every good writer must know when to stop researching and when to start writing. So off I go...

3 comments:

  1. I love to research too. And the internet has opened up a world of opportunity.

    It also got me into genealogy research. Fascinating!

    Oh, and you MUST sew that pattern. What fun! Don't you just love the back of it?

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  2. Kacey - Yes, the back is just darling! More reason for me to keep on exercising so I can look good in it! ;-)

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  3. I admit to loving research too. :)

    And indeed the internet has opened many, many doors. However, me being naive, I must constantly remind myself to question information and the legitimacy of certain websites. I loathe the lack of credibility that some people bring to the venue of the www and so must remind myself to remain skeptical. Not something I'm entirely familiar with!

    Happy writing!

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