Jessie: On the coast of Maine enjoying the seaside no matter the weather!
Have I ever mentioned how much I love research? Maybe it is because it is a way to justify spending hours snooping around on the internet. But, I think it is more likely that I just enjoy learning how the people who have gone before us lived, loved, persevered and triumphed. I especially like learning how things have changed and, more often, how they have stayed the same over time.
Articles written about the past are always interesting but it is especially delightful to get my eyeballs on books written during the time period I am researching. I also adore newspaper and magazine articles of the day and am fascinated by the advertisements. The problems readers were trying to solve seem to be very similar to our own. Readers are advised on slashing food budgets, making the most of new household technologies and new advances in personal grooming.
But most delicious of all such records, at least in my opinion, are pieces of personal correspondence. Journals, letters and postcards that were not meant for public consumption are often remarkably revealing about the writer and his or her slant on the atmosphere and events of the day. I particularly love the sorts of notes that are not meant to be of earth-shattering consequence like postcards mentioning an upcoming visit or a fine day spent in the mountains. It makes the past feel alive to me to read everyday sorts of remarks between friends and loved ones.
Since I love to poke about in historic personal papers I was delighted to recently come across a way to make my inclination be of service to something greater than my own curiosity. The Library of Congress has embarked on a program, named By the People, to crowdsource help from volunteers in deciphering, transcribing and tagging documents from the past! Anyone is welcome to help out and there is no account or commitment necessary!
The projects already underway include Walt Whitman, Civil War Soldiers, Mary Church Terrell, Clara Barton and Abraham Lincoln. Upcoming projects are slated to include Women’s Suffrage and Branch Rickey. I have already started working on the Civil War campaign and am finding it really intriguing. Not only does it appeal to my interest in research, the handwriting often needs deciphering and I end up feeling a bit like a sleuth! I would encourage any of you who are interested at all in the project to check it out and to consider participating!
Readers, do you love to read old letters and newspaper articles? Do you have any cherished papers from a loved one? Do you save your own for people who will come along later? Writers, do you love to do research?