The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 45, November 4, 2001, Article 8


  Dick Johnson writes: "This is in answer to Carl Honore's   
  lament in the October 28th E-Sylum that all the archives of   
  numismatic interest are in the East and he is in the Pacific   

  (1)  BE DEDICATED.  Recognize that the archives are not   
  going to come to you. You must go to them. Research is expensive,   
  in both time and money.  Part of that cost is travel. If you cannot   
  take a sabbatical from your job for the time off to research,   
  consider vacation time. Otherwise you are going to have to wait   
  until you retire for the time required to do your numismatic   
  research activities.    

  A professional man I know is looking forward to his retirement,   
  a few months away, to research Lifesaving Medals.  He had   
  planned this in advance and did as much homework ahead of   
  time as possible. He will now have the resources to do this   
  chore unencumbered by calendar or checkbook problems.    

  True the archives are not distributed with geographical equality:   
  Some things in life are not fair.  You must go to them. I   
  remember talking with a researcher from England. He came to   
  America to research at the library of the American Numismatic   
  Society. I asked why.    

  "You have the greatest collection of numismatic books in one   
  room right here," he said. Perhaps he had been to other libraries   
  where the works were scattered. We are fortunate to have   
  these national numismatic treasures nearby. Others have   
  traveled great distances to access these.    

  (2)  HONE YOUR RESEARCH TRAITS.  I have mentioned   
  this before in E-Sylum: join a local genealogy club. You will   
  learn resources and techniques that you never knew before.   
  Also there is probably more resources in your area than you   
  may be aware.    

  I have been writing and researching in numismatics since   
  college days. Gad, that's almost fifty years. I thought I knew   
  how to research. But the little ol' grandmothers in my genealogy   
  club sometimes run circles around me. They have taught me a   
  lot, and are very willing to impart the knowledge and   
  techniques they often learned the hard way.    

  They also have contacts that are unbelievable. Last month we   
  took a field trip to Boston. At the Massachusetts State   
  Archives (next door to the Kennedy Archives) we had a   
  speaker who was a friend of one of our members and she   
  pulled out documents and passed them around that, she   
  said, she would do for no other group. We also visited the   
  New England Historic and Genealogical Society.  Five floors   
  of pure research pleasure, books and manuscripts.    

  (3)  ASK FOR HELP.  It is amazing what you can get from   
  others. Often a polite inquiry will provide more data than you   
  can imagine. We are presently living in a society of tremendous   
  information available; others often have this and are willing to   
  give you what you want, if you only ask.    

  Case in point: I was working on early U.S. Mint technology.   
  Became friends with Craig Sholley, who had done a great   
  deal of this work before me.  He had found the Peale Report   
  of 1835 at the Philadelphia National Archives and photocopied   
  the entire Report.    

  Franklin Peale was the mechanical genius, you may recall, who   
  was hired by the U.S. Mint and sent by Director Samuel Moore   
  to tour the mints of Europe and report his findings.  Here they   
  are on 272 legal size pages, in Peale's own hand. (This led to 
  the introduction of the steam press for coining and the engraving   
  pantograph for making dies at the Philadelphia Mint.)   

  Craig was kind enough to photocopy his set and send these   
  to me. In turn, I transcribed much of the Report (with the aid   
  of a consenting wife who is better at deciphering difficult   
  handwriting than I). Even so, it required another trip to the   
  Philadelphia National Archives for both of us to solve some   
  remaining problems by pouring over the original.    

  (4)  LAST POINT, DREAM!   Create in your mind what you   
  would like to do if you had all the resources you needed. My   
  dream is a mobile home to travel and park in the lots of   
  archives and museums of America. Meaningful research does   
  not happen in one or two days. It often requires weeks. You   
  have to learn what is available, how it is arranged, how to use   
  it, the rules and requirements of the institution (like using those   
  damn white gloves!), then immerse yourself. It is best if you   
  can do this research in solid chunks of time rather than numerous   
  one-day visits.    

  For research on early American die sinkers, I need to search   
  city directories from a large number of cities. Fortunately,   
  the largest collection of these is at the American Antiquarian   
  Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, about a two-hour   
  drive for me. But I would rather stay in a motor home parked   
  nearby and visit this archive day-after-day for as long as it   
  takes to search these directories. (I dream this, in preference   
  to staying in hotels or motels, for the time needed to stretch   
  my research travel budget.)    

  Incidentally, despite the largest collection of city directories   
  in America at AAS, they are available to researchers only   
  on microfilm. Get used to using these machines and pouring   
  over the gray-glow screens for hours. If you can prove a   
  page is missing or damaged in the film they may retrieve the 
  original (if they have it) to let you examine it.  So crank the   
  ol' microfilm machines (or, if you ar lucky, use the new   
  motorized ones)).    

  Now, Carl, what can you do before you retire to advance   
  numismatics by your as yet unfound discoveries? Contact   
  local museums and offer your numismatic expertise to   
  catalog their holdings. You will have to prove your   
  qualifications to the curator. But you will find this fulfilling   
  and you might make one of those discoveries in your own   

  Also search out microfilm available for interlibrary loan; I   
  found a journal of die sinkers in the Scovill archives at the   
  Baker Library at Harvard. In this case I had to pay to   
  have the microfilm made (since no researcher before me   
  had examined it), but once this was done I could use this   
  at my local library who saw that it was returned to Baker   
  Library after I was done with it (that was their requirement).    

  Last words, Carl:  Dream! then Go!    

  P.S.  Researching in all  these institutions has started me   
  gathering a new collectable: the photocopy machine debit   
  cards. Unlike credit cards these plastic chits are rather   
  plain. However, I predict these are the "provisionals" and   
  future ones will have more elaborate and colorful designs,   
  a different one for each institution. Even in their present   
  state, however, they are more meaningful to researchers   
  than those innocuous plastic phone cards that are used   
  by the public (and collected by phonocardiographies)."   

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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