Thursday, December 9, 2010

So Ya Wanna Do Some Research?

In this day of internet access to a huge variety of information, it is tempting to think that we can find out everything we ever want to know online. And it is true that, between government record sites, library information sites, electronic newspaper archives and for-profit research sites such as Ancestry.com, we can learn more in an evening in front of our computer screens than we used to be able to dig out in a week of traveling to assorted repositories and hoping that we asked for the right materials. (Trust me on this--I remember when the old-fashioned way of doing the research was the only way.)

For serious researchers, the new tools are wonderful, but they do not completely replace the older methods. Nor is it likely that they will do so any time soon. There is so much information available that complete digitzation of research notes, books, and other resources can only be a very long term goal. This is why the Issaquah History Museums maintains, and continue to add to, the David J. Horrocks Memorial Research Center.

Named for the late David Horrocks, whose personal research files included thousands of carefully labeled photographs taken throughout Issaquah's civic history, the Research Center is located in the historic Gilman Town Hall, with our offices. The space is small, but the information holdings are rich. Along with Mr. Horrocks' visual records of the area, there are books of Issaquah History, as well as more general works about Washington History, mining history, lumbering, agriculture, and social history. Some of the volumes of biographies were contemporary when they were published--a century or so ago. There are indicies and collections of local obituaries from the twentieth century. Genealogists can find many leads in the vertical files organized by family. Many years of the Issaquah Press are available on microfilm, and we maintain the machine to view the microfilms. We have paper copies of other local publications from Issaquah, as well as many of the Issaquah High School yearbooks and even a few of the Junior High's "Lightnin'." There are information sheets from surveys of residential properties, copies of official town records and building permits, and keys for tracking through Issaquah's several rounds of changing street names.

A couple of years ago, we completed a major reorganization of the clipping files that had been accumulating for over twenty years. We sorted all of the old loose files by subject, consolidating and eliminating redundancies, and built new topical notebooks. We then indexed the topics and entered the information into our collections management software so that these materials are just as readily findable as are our books and official records. The notebook format allows us to continue to add new articles and write-ups while maintaining order and accessibility. Topics include a wide variety of the happenings in Issaquah over the years, from mayors to parks to pageants and celebrations to businesses. The sixty-two notebooks filled thus far hold a wealth of information.

When we combine the Research Center materials with our other archival holdings, which include thousands of photographs and hundreds of maps, a uniquely comprehensive view of Issaquah and its environs and inhabitants over the last century and a half emerges. This is the kind of research result that is aided by the wonderful indexing and tracking capabilites of the computer but that still can only be put together in person.

If you have research questions about the history of Issaquah and the people who have lived here, you are welcome to come into the Gilman Town Hall during our open hours, 11:00 to 3:00, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can also email (collections@issaquahhistory.org) or call ahead (425-392-3500) to check on whether your topic is covered in our holdings or to make an appointment for an alternative time if you are unable to come in during the open hours.

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