Sunday, October 21, 2012


October can be a busy month of professional development for writers. I've attended two events with excellent presentations in a week. First one targeted my freelance travel writing and last night I attended a session on historical research, both data and images.

World War II nurses
World War II nurses
Creative Commons
(Photo : timefornurses)
I often need to fact check for articles and nonfiction books: Where did my subject serve in the military in WWII?  When did she die? What of?

Novelists too must pay great attention to details: What did the street looked like in 1906? How far is it from Halifax to New York? What did children wear in 1890 in Nova Scotia?

The presentation by Andrea Lister (historian, editor, communications specialist) focused on all this and more. We discovered that many records have been digitized and are easily searchable and available online; a staggering amount, in fact. There are also millions of images to see on the web too, documentaries, and old movies. 

Now, sitting at computers, writers can search government records of all kinds, national archives and libraries, local libraries, museums large and small, and newspapers, etc for:
  • Census data 
    Old document with nice stamp
    Old document
    Creative Commons
     (Photo: storebukkebruse)
  • Vital statistics
  • Immigration data and shipping movements
  • Maps (Google Maps can now show you what a building or street looked like in the past alongside what it looks like today.)
  • Journals, diaries, letters, etc.
  • Images and movies
  • And general info on events, lifestyle, etc in newspapers and books. 
Lister explained how Creative Commons licences work (, how we may use our finds (or not), how to cite them, how to cope with copyrighted material, and how to get permissions to use quotes and images for publication. 

And, yes, blogs are "publication," so we have to be very careful how we use other creators' works. For example, the image below is in the public domain and I can use it, but I must quote the source.

English: P-38Hs of the 55th Fighter Group, Nut...
English: P-38Hs of the 55th Fighter Group, Nuthamstead Airfield England (World War II)
Source: National Archives via the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency,
Maxwell AFB Alabama (Photo: Wikipedia)
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