Finding Material to Record

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Post by ColleenMc » September 21st, 2020, 10:09 am

I blathered on a bit in a reply to a post elsewhere, and others mentioned that this had enough general info that it would be good to post as its own topic. Feel free to add other favorite “hunting grounds” for material to record.

I talk mainly about Project Gutenberg (PG) and certain areas of Internet Archive (which areas and how I narrow searches to try to stay on the right side of copyright restrictions is mentioned below) because they are the easiest for me to access AND feel fairly certain that I’m finding public domain material. I know there are other sites out there esp for people overseas that aren’t as accessible or reliable for the US (likewise I know my suggestions are not ideal for non-USians). So again, other ideas welcome!

This started as a discussion of specifically finding material for short works collections, esp magazine articles, but as I’m wont to do I ran with it and wandered far and wide... so what I wrote in the other post is pasted below, and I hope others chime in with their own places they like to look.

(Pasted part)

I find so much stuff I want to record (or listen to someone else read to me!)
Internet Archive is a treasure but you have to limit the searches correctly....I tend to stick to American Libraries because if it’s “always available” it’s likely PD. You can also limit by year of publication.

Magazines are a treasure trove. There are dozens on PG but the Magazine Rack and Pulp Archive collections on IA are where I spend way too much time. Just limit the dates to 1924 and prior so you don’t get excited about something and then notice that it was published in 1936....and double check because the “labor of love” archives on IA are just that and errors happen.

Another place I love to dig is the old New York Times. If you have a subscription you can run wild through their archives, and even if you don’t, they have an assortment of articles free for all. google “spiderbytes” and New York Times to find those pages of links.

As for books, my 3 favorite ways to find things via serendipity are:

1) going to the search feature on PG and clicking “Random” which brings up a page of 20-25 random works. Hitting the refresh brings another batch...and another....and another....

2) there are publisher catalogs on PG and sometimes it’s fun to go through them, then search for eye catching titles in PG and IA

3) look at the “also by this author” and publisher ad pages in the front and end of the books on PG and IA—and then go to town searching on titles and authors listed there. This is especially helpful when looking at dime novels or other “throwaway” books of the era, tho it’s very hit and miss whether you will actually find a title that sounds like a must read (like “Whose Wife is She?” In a dime novels list....sigh)

I literally spend hours digging around, sometimes without ever settling into reading anything (but with 8 or 10 things to explore further downloaded to my tablet). I periodically post to the Suggestions board (and digging around in the older pages of that board is it’s own adventure!) just to sort of justify the time I’ve spent playing in archives....


(End of pasted part)

Finally, I really do love digging around the Internet Archive and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, so if there is something you are looking for, or general topic ideas for short pieces, feel free to holler at me. I’ll bookmark this thread or you can send me a private message.

Also, I have a New York Times and a subscription so if you want to get an old article that’s behind either of those paywalls, I can get a PDF or screenshot and send them to you...

Okay really done now....for now :lol:

Last edited by ColleenMc on October 2nd, 2020, 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by TriciaG » September 21st, 2020, 10:17 am

For non-fiction articles, I like to search in the JSTOR collection on Archive: (on left side, type your searches into "Search this collection"). Yes, you have to watch publishing dates as well, but most of them are pre-1924.
Short essays: Elia, and The Last Essays of Elia
Bulwer-Lytton novel: The Caxtons
Boring works 30-70 minutes long: Insomnia Collection 5

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Post by Leni » September 21st, 2020, 3:58 pm

Seconding Tricia's suggestion of JSTOR for anything academic-related. There are TONS of cool stuff there.

(I am sitting on my hands waiting for the 1930 works by Milman Parry to enter the PD in the US :evil:)

Women Biographies? The Lives of The Empresses of Constantinople are open for readers! :D

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Post by mightyfelix » September 21st, 2020, 7:02 pm

Several years ago, I signed up for daily "Word of the Day" emails from Eventually, they changed the format of the emails so that they were less fun and useful for me, so I ditched them and signed up for word of the day from Merriam Webster.

Anyways, in that email, they'll give the definition of the word, the etymology, and a quite from a publication of some kind with the word in it. Sometimes it'll be an article from last week's paper, but it's often from old books, and they always list the year. Eventually, I got into the habit of always looking at the year first (sometimes even skipping over the word itself) to see if it was pre-1924 (or -25, now). If it is, I'll then go try to find that book at PG or IA. Some of the books I've found that way I've posted in Book Suggestions. Others I've launched as group projects.

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Post by ColleenMc » September 22nd, 2020, 7:26 am

That’s a great idea! I love those random suggestions that seem to come from the universe. I read a fair amount of nonfiction, and I’m a footnotes dork, so when I see something cited that sounds potentially interesting, I will often look for it on IA and PG.

I’m working on a reference overview article on child welfare laws in the US and came across a reference to decennial (is that the right word for every ten years?) White House conference on Child welfare that began in 1909. Of course I promptly fell down an Internet rabbit hole seeing if there were any clearly PD reports or documents produced (found some possibles but not clearly enough PD)...but that happens all the time!


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