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Posts Tagged ‘Research’

Google is a breeze for the “digital natives” among us. Type tabby cat in the search box and a wealth of media and information appears in around .42 seconds, ready for immediate digital consumption.

Finding aids aren’t so easy. Yet they are an essential tool for any and all researchers interested in Greenwich Village history: Google is not enough.

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Evernote is a great note taking software that really helped me both organize my research and prepare a narrative for the GVHDA web exhibit. Its flexibility – which allowed me to make “notes” of my own creation or capture full webpages, excerpts of websites, and images on websites – enabled me to keep a constantly-updating archive of materials necessary for constructing a well-researched final project.

I had never used a digital service or software for note taking before enrolling in this class. I usually rely on my Gmail account for organizing web links and drafts of my writing. Using it as a storage space ensured that my work would never be lost and that I could continually revisit resources and my own research from my cell phone, tablet, laptop, and any computer with an Internet connection.

There are, however, some problems with organizing research in my inbox. Beyond labeling each email with the name or kind of information I stored within it – “draft introduction,” for example, or “New York Times article on Second Avenue” – there is no function for sorting the information that I was keeping and creating. Websites in particular posed a problem because each email simply contained a link with no preview of the actual content. I also had trouble distinguishing between classes when using my email account, making it difficult to keep track of multiple research projects each semester.

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A screenshot of my Evernote homepage.

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The tags I used in my Greenwich Village Digital History Notebook.

As a result, Evernote is a welcome change in the way I conduct research and it solved all of the issues that I had with storing my work online. I can easily access it using the application that I downloaded to all of my devices or through the Evernote website on any computer. I can also sort my resources using tags of my own creation, and I have made different notebooks for the various projects that I’m working on this semester.

The most helpful aspect of Evernote is its tagging capability. As an Internet user familiar and comfortable with tagging, it is great to be able to impose a frame on and implement tags relevant to my research. After making a notebook for our Greenwich Village History class, I classified my notes into various categories. I tagged my comments on our readings and work done in class as “Class Notes.” Materials that I wanted to upload as items for the digital archive were either tagged as “Digital archive” (if I had permission to use them or they were in the public domain) or as “Digital archive?” (if I was in the process of gathering permissions and their status was still uncertain). I created my own notes containing proposals for the exhibit’s layout and drafts of exhibit pages, tagging them all as “Exhibit Planning.” Any resources that I planned to use more broadly for exhibit content were simply tagged “Research,” while more specific clippings I organized using unique tags – “CUANDO” or “Cooper” – relevant to my project. 

I also really enjoyed using the Evernote clipper. It made the research process a lot easier and more efficient, allowing me to quickly save webpages, articles, and images directly to my notebook of choice. I most appreciated the tool when I was working within NYU’s subscription-based databases. A good amount of my primary source research for the exhibit was conducted in ProQuest’s historical archives, which I cannot access unless I am logged into my NYU account. Clipping the entire article webpage with Evernote, however, allowed me to view PDFs of the material, even when I was on a device or computer that was not logged into NYU.

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A blank clipped page from a Google Books search.

The clipper was less helpful when I clipped Google Books resources. I usually began such searches in Google Scholar with targeted search terms that led to specific pages in books and journals. The clipper, however, is unable to “clip” the webpage so the note for any Google resource is therefore an empty page. I also had some issues immediately tagging resources while clipping. The software ran slowly when I did so and often assigned my most-used tag to the resource instead of allowing me to select the appropriate tag myself. I then needed to open the application, manually remove the incorrect tag, and reassign the material the tag I originally intended to give it. As a “free” service user, I’m limited to 60 MB of files every month. This is not an issue now – I still have 59.6 MB of space remaining before my allowance is updated – but can become problematic if I begin to rely on the service for all of my research and work-related projects.

I really appreciate Evernote as a research tool. It replaced the previous way that I assembled materials online, enhancing the process by allowing me to better sort and save my research. Gathering digital information relevant to my work is much simpler with Evernote because of its tagging capabilities and clipper tool. Being able to plan and draft my writing in the same place that I store my class notes also assisted me in better organizing the assignments that I needed to complete. Overall, Evernote made a potentially overwhelming research process both more feasible and enjoyable.

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One of the best resources for studying any New York military unit during the civil war is the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center website: http://dmna.state.ny.us/historic/mil-hist.htm.  Finding better resources on New York military history than are found in the extensive collection, most of which has been digitized, would be a difficult task.  This site includes transcriptions of many records, digitized photographs from the 1860s, and images of many of the flags carried by New York units throughout the war.

This well organized site makes use by researchers an enjoyable experience. The designers of this site made navigation to desired topics easy with links posted on the left side of the main page.  This allowed me to quickly find the unit from Greenwich Village I was searching for, which was the 9th New York State Militia (US Service- 83rd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment).  Once I found the page specifically on the 9th New York State Militia, I was able to confirm that this regiment was indeed from Greenwich Village by looking under the “History” heading.  Part of the detailed information under this heading was a speech, entitled “TABLET TO OLD NINTH REGIMENT.  Unveiled at Site of the Old Thirteenth Street Headquarters” made in Greenwich Village by a Colonel Morris.  This information gave me insight into how important the 9th New York State Militia was to Greenwich Village and the pride the Village had in its contribution to defending the Union.

With the confidence that this was indeed a part of Greenwich Village history worth investigating, I continued my search on this site for more detailed information and was not disappointed. Before moving to the 83rd New York page (which the 9th Militia became while in US service) I thoroughly examined the 9th Militia page.  Not only does this site include information on this particular unit, but it gives a link to a brief history of the New York State Militia as well as links to scanned copies of the Adjutant General Reports for the State of New York (http://dmna.state.ny.us/historic/research/AG_Reports/AGreportsIndex.htm).  Of special note here is the warning given before using these reports: “Because the text of the page is actually underneath the page image, the search function within the Acrobat Reader will not be completely accurate.”  To better aid researchers, the New York State Military Museum’s archivists and historians are up front with the limitations of aspects of their site.  Despite these limitations, I gained a better understanding of the organization of the New York Militia, including which military district Greenwich Village was located in, through the use of these reports.  As if this was not enough information, the archivists at the museum added an “additional readings” section which is supposed to be a comprehensive list.  Within this list are many firsthand accounts from men fighting with the 9th Militia, many of which are found on Google Books.  The New York State Military Museum archivists’ concern about the accuracy of their site is evident in that they include an email address to contact them with more information regarding the unit, or books on the unit, that is not mentioned on the site.

Moving on to the 83rd New York Regiment’s page reveals more archival information.  More scanned images of 19th century documents, photographs, and objects are included in this page than are included in the 9th New York Militia page.  I found an image of the flag the men from Greenwich Village carried with them into battle, as well as three scanned photographs of soldiers from the 1860s who were a part of the 83rd New York.  Not only does this site give you a lot of written information, it presents images and links in order to make research an enjoyable experience.

Permission to use granted by DMNA

 The “Further Reading” section for the 83rd New York has 20 additional items that one could look through to do more in depth research. Included in these resources are books, speeches, and letters.  Some of these documents are not digitized and are found in the New York State Library Manuscripts and Special Collections.  The website does indicate what is included in the collection and if there is a finding aid included with the collection.

Perhaps the most valuable resource to researching Greenwich Village has been the unit rosters.  Published as the Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year …. : Registers of the [units numbers], these documents include detailed information on each member of the 83rd New York Infantry Regiment.  This enables the researcher of Greenwich Village history to look for names of those who lived in the Village either before or after the Civil War as well as where each soldier came from (i.e. New York, NY).  Unit rosters allowed me to delve deep into the lives of men in the unit, from the Colonel to a lowly Private, and see how long they were enlisted, if they were killed or wounded, what ranks they held and when they held them, etc.

If researching an aspect of New York military history, especially the Civil War, The New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center is an amazing resource.  The massive amounts of information are made manageable by the easy to use design of the website.  Archivists and historians with this museum have worked diligently to provide texts, photographs, and other resources, which researchers of New York military history should not bypass.  This web resource has aided me greatly in researching the Civil War history of Greenwich Village.

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