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Author Topic: How do we KNOW what is accurate?  (Read 1752 times)
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Miss Whitlock
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« on: March 15, 2016, 02:43:15 PM »

I am probably not putting this in the right place. :-P

I have been ramping up my efforts to be authentic recently, and I have seen a sort of trend. That is, I am totally in over my head.   Huh

I have only some sewing skills, and a desire to learn; no formal education on how to research. Yet, I am constantly needing to set up an accurate impression, in our store or in our clothing. So,  instead of panicking and desperately begging for help from you all on every detail of my job, I thought I would ask; how do you do your own research?

For example, I found in our ledger that our store once sold braces, which I understand to be suspenders. I want to see what authentic braces are like. What questions would you ask first? What resources would you employ primarily? When would you decide that you had enough evidence for one position or another? How do you present your research to the visitors in an accurate yet concise way?

Maybe if I ask enough questions I won't have to ask as many later on...   Roll Eyes

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Heidi Hollister
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« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2016, 05:07:32 PM »

The simple answer is there is never enough research.  Just when you come to a conclusion, you find out your conclusion was wrong.  Some of the members here call up museums and ask to inspect originals, you can learn things from auction sites which sell things from the period, you can look in old books (Google books is invaluable for this, as is Archives.com and Guttenberg) as well as knowing who has specialized in such research and talking to them.  They'll often have a bibliography from which you can base your own research, as well as giving you a boost.

As far as having evidence enough for an opinion, you'll have to realize there's never enough info, but you can say "My research to date suggests..." and it allows you to increase your knowledge without stating an absolute.

Visitors can be funny people.  Sometimes they want to pull information out of you and sometimes they'd rather you  said nothing while they stand and stare at your funny clothes. They're often interested in what you are DOING rather than what you know, so explaining what you are doing is a good way to present your information.  If you're in a store, ask them about things they are familiar with, brands they might buy that were in use during the time, prices on things they might be familiar with, check out procedures... a host of places to start from there.  Show them some of the things you sell, tell a story about them.... Those braces for instance.  (there were different styles)

Questions are a good thing. Doing your own research is fantastic and a huge step in the right direction, but never feel ashamed to ask questions.  Smiley
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2016, 10:53:43 AM »

We come to get a sense of what was common, everyday, etc by long association and deep and broad context. That require gathering information from a myriad of period sources: journals, diaries, newspapers, broadsheets, magazines, trade publications of the era, music, novels, images, engravings, patent records, shipping manifests, extant pieces.... just a zillion aspects that all gel into a sense of "this is how it worked." And that sense changes and evolves over time, too, as we gather more information over the years.

It's like a never-ending puzzle, which is a lot of fun.
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Elizabeth
EKorsmo
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« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2016, 10:57:14 AM »

What Heidi & Liz said.

Some of my favorite on-line resources are The Met's on-line collections, and the Google Books Advanced Search; The Athenium has portraits and genre paintings that can be browsed by year.  If you don't already use it, negative search modifier  "-" can be very helpful in weeding out results you know won't be helpful, such as searching for "Victorian" "-steampunk". 

Here are links to a few more museum collections, and period literature sources on-line.
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Miss Whitlock
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2016, 01:18:46 PM »

Ok, so...

  • Good resources include garments and documents (and "music, novels, images, engravings, patent records, shipping manifests, extant pieces") from the time in question, which can be found online or in museums.
  • You aren't really trying to meet a standard of "proved", but you are mounding up evidence to use in making decisions and educating others.
  • You don't stop learning
  • (This is from this thread and some others I have seen) The questions you generally want to ask will be the ones that help you find what was "common, everyday", or normal for the time. I.E."What fabrics were commonly used in wrappers in 1850-1860?" vs. "Were there ever any wrappers in beige silk?"

Do you have a more complex process, or is it simply 1) form a good question 2)search the sources for evidence ?

Thanks so much for the help everybody!
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Heidi Hollister
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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2016, 04:23:03 PM »

My method is
1. Ask a question
2. Search for answers in primary sources
3. Find answers to questions I hadn't asked yet.
4. Run down a new rabbit trail researching the new questions
5. NEVER write down your sources, because you were too busy learning new stuff you forgot to write it down.
6. Regret step 5 bitterly when you get into a conversation with someone and you want to share your new research.


Takeaway?  Write it down.  Do not follow my example.  Keep a bibliography.  Be smart.  Do not be like me.
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2016, 08:45:27 PM »

Yep, that's basically the process! Then it loops back around again and again.

And Heidi's process is one we all go through, too. Cheesy Those tangents can be very, very informative. Just write the stuff down. It's like the Make a Muslin rule... Write It Down. Cheesy
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Elizabeth
Miss Whitlock
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2016, 05:13:51 PM »

 Cheesy That is a really good point! *writes it down*  Wink
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2016, 06:10:17 PM »

Hee hee! Heidi, you're reminding me of Auntie Barbara's favorite maxim (courtesy of novelist Catherine Aird): "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning."

See you round the rabbit runs!
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