Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Library . . .

This morning, I was trying to think of an "L" concept, person, or event that would tie into 19th Century Tasmania. Lady Franklin, otherwise known as she-who-got-me-started-on-this-project.  BTW Robert Hughes gives her just one page in The Fatal Shore, a little shocking given her role in Franklin's recall. But, then I thought since I'm working on convict history at Port Arthur this week, perhaps the Luddites.

But only one "L" leaped off the page. L is for L I B R A R Y.

I've already exhausted my local city and local county libraries. Interlibrary loan takes weeks, but brings me books from all over the country and the Library of Congress. I'm grateful for every book I've gained this way. Shelf browsing at used book stores has brought some surprising gems, but oh, is that random. Libraries are changing, but perhaps not fast enough.

My go-to research source is simply the Internet in all its complexity. I've found doctoral theses, genealogy essays, biographies, travel sites, and lovely PDF files. I'm no apologist for Wikipedia; I think Wiki is a great jumping off place for overviews, key names, dates, maps, and photos.

This morning, my online search took me to a wonderful book, An Excursion to Port Arthur, 1842, written by David Burn, no publication date available. Within minutes, I had downloaded the book onto my Kindle (no cost) through the Internet Archive. and an "editable page" through the Open University.  Right when I'm struggling to understand the daily life of prisoners at Port Arthur, and, yep, in 1842.

Just this year Amazon opened up access to Kindle books for libraries. We patrons (whether of Amazon or libraries) have had to jump through a few extra hoops, but the sorting, searching, and downloading will continue to improve. And now I'm ready to download and get back to work!