Monday, August 04, 2003

That wasn't too bad. The drive back from DC was actually pleasant, and the police seemed to be letting people (including me) drive at 85 most of the way. The actual research went very well, considering. The bureaucratic orientation to the place, e.g. signing up, getting photographed, etc., didn't take long at all. The most difficult part of the whole experience was...finding a parking space in downtown Washington. I ended up parking in a small lot behind Union Station and walking ten blocks in the tropical DC heat.

I'm writing a book on the effect of one particular World War One propaganda story and its absorption into the culture after the war as a sort of urban legend, and the consequences of it. It's fun to write, but the difficult part is cataloguing every appearance of the story in print, especially in newspapers. Newspapers are archived haphazardly around the country, and the Library of Congress is really the only central depository of nearly every old newspaper in America.

The problem is that except for a very few, newspapers are not indexed ever, so looking for specific things in them is extraordinarily difficult. It's like looking for one specific phrase in a novel, over and over and over. Today I was looking for editorial reactions to the story around the time it broke, and there were several major newspapers which apparently never mentioned the story at all, which sucks for the purpose of my research. But I did find some brilliant stuff, including a 3-part editorial in the Baltimore Sun that fits my purposes perfectly.

Primary sources. Sigh. I love primary sources.

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