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DIY Research Tips

The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906

May 30, 2014 • Deirdre Black

Recently posted at the Library of Congress website is a collection of rare films of New York City . The collection is called The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906 and contains forty-five films of New York dating from 1898 to 1906. Twenty-five of these films were made by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and the remaining twenty by Edison Company productions.

The films are silent and most last no longer than a few minutes.  Regardless, each provides a wonderful glimpse of  New York’s bygone days.  You can see see immigrants landing, people shopping at street markets, and fire brigades on the move. There are buildings being torn down, skyscrapers going up, and men generally working in dangerous situations. There are pirates scuffling with police, newspaper boys brawling over news bundles, and what happened on 23rd Street is simply hilarious (and predates a similar scene with Marilyn Monroe by about 50 years).

Above all, the films provide a richness and authenticity of life as it was lived in that City… from the views and the articles of clothing to the hustle and bustle of activities and horse drawn carts.

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Century old Antarctic images discovered in Captain Scott’s hut.

May 21, 2014 • Deirdre Black

Somehow I missed the December 2013 announcement of the discovery of 22 negatives taken 100 years ago during Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Ross Sea Party in Antarctica. The negatives were found in expedition photographer Herbert Ponting’s darkroom which is located at Captain Scott’s last expedition base at Cape Evans. They have been conserved and made available by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust.  Enlarged versions of five of the best of the images appear at My Modern Met.

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Shipping laws

May 13, 2014 • Deirdre Black

I am surprised to learn about items that cannot be legally shipped to certain countries.

  • Bulgaria: musical greeting cards
  • Canada: margarine and substitute butters
  • France: saccharin in any form
  • Haiti: jewelry
  • Italy: bells and musical instruments (or even parts of them)
  • Spain, Madagascar, and Thailand: decks of playing cards
  • Vietnam: mosquito nets

I suspect that the basis for some of these laws lies far enough in the past to be unknown to most living people… not unlike the 1920s-era Jones Act that requires all goods shipped within the United States be transported by American-made and American-manned ships. Hmmmm… seems like an unfair burden to place on Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and all of the U.S. Possessions, eh?

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Patent Searching

May 8, 2014 • Deirdre Black

Just attended a fabulous AIIP Webinar on Patent Research presented by Dominic DeMarco, Managing Director, Patent Agent and Researcher at DeMarcoIP.

In addition to speaking on what patents are and are not,  why anyone would search patents, and how to actually do a basic search, DeMarco named the top 6 major commercial databases (with a head nod to the hundreds nipping at their heels) and gave an applied, very detailed tour of one via sample searches. These big 6 are premium resources, but very costly. Interestingly, he also shared information about some equally wonderful premium but free tools as well.

Espacenet is a patent search tool made available at the European Patent Office.  It provides “free access to more than 80 million patent documents worldwide, containing information about inventions and technical developments from 1836 to today.”  But, like the major commercial databases, Espacenet doesn’t have information for all patent areas, so you may wish to use another premium database at WIPO to search those areas.

WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization  is “a global forum for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation.” It makes its Patentscope tool freely available as well as other valuable, no-fee search tools.

You may be wondering why the US Patent and Trademark Office isn’t the front runner for patent searching. The simple answer is that, although it was a cutting edge tool when first created, it has not been maintained to keep up with the innovations that are featured by latecomers. Nevertheless, it is still an important resource to use, especially with regard to doublechecking the results you obtained elsewhere.

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Women and the Arts

March 30, 2014 • Deirdre Black

It may seem old-fashioned and outdated to encourage those interested in women and the arts to explore quilting but you can learn a lot about the lives of women and the history and cultures of their day by studying the American folkart of quilting.

A great place to begin your investigation is the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The National Quilt Collection, which is part of the museum’s Division of Home and Community Life’s Textile Collection, got its start in the 1890s and has grown to include more than 500 quilts and quilt-related items.  The online exhibit includes more than 162 images as well as information about techniques, fabrics, and designs used.

If that piqued your interest, you may want to study quilts and quilting further or you may choose to investigate what women have been up to in other areas of artistic expression. There’s a lot of talent to explore in the arts and entertainment that goes way back.

Categories: DIY Research Tips, Women
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