Sunday, February 6, 2011

New England resources: Searching for Shammas

One of my great challenges in becoming more expert in New England research is learning about places, history, laws, customs… well, you know, 400 years of everything! I’m still searching for a niche, something under-researched or a time/place/topic that just really grabs me, so I can focus a little more.  But in the meantime, I try (and try) to read broadly.

And so I went hunting for two books and their authors today, and happily found more than I expected. I needed to note the exact titles of Women and the Law of Property in Early America by Marylynn Salmon, and Inheritance in America from Colonial Times to the Present by Carole Shammas, Michel Dahlin, and Marylynn Salmon.  For some reason, I also had it in the back of my mind that there was another book by Carole Shammas that had caught my attention some time back; it was time to google.

I came across Shammas’ profile at the University of Southern California (http://college.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/faculty.cfm?pid=1003699&CFID=13189362&CFTOKEN=36713233) with a link to her curriculum vitae; I clicked on it, and found my hoped-for list of her publications, including a very long list of articles which she has authored.

Sometimes the internet makes me feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store.  I skimmed and happily noted several interesting articles. “The Space Problem in Early United States Cities” (William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. V. 57 no. 3 [July 2000], 505-542) caught my eye; I’ve long been interested in how people use space, as individuals, as families, and as communities. Here comes the candy store part: I didn’t have to move an inch to get this article. Being a resident of Massachusetts gives me access to the electronic resources of the wonderful Boston Public Library at http://bpl.org/.  I clicked on the tab for “electronic resources,” clicked “J” under “Search databases alphabetically by title,” clicked “JSTOR,” and then did an advanced search with the author’s name and a few words from the title.  Up came a pdf of the whole article, which I sent to print. Voila, subway reading for the next few trips! Procrastination material for those evenings when I should be studying German! And (undoubtedly) new insight into lives of the past.

And all with a few taps of my fingers on a keyboard.

I’ve used the amazing collection of journals at JSTOR a number of times; it has greatly aided my efforts to expand my knowledge and resources, and of course not just for New England.  I applaud the many libraries in the U.S. that make this collection available. Now if I could just find more time to read the many enticing articles I find there!

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