Online research – or what means to the research world

Regular visitors to this site have probably noticed that there are few – a very few – sites and blogs listed on the sidebar. Some are there because they have some bearing on the 17th Connecticut and some are there because I like the content in a more general sense. The NPS blogs are listed because (1) the 17th fought at those locations and (2) because I have a great deal of respect for the people who work at these parks and write on their respective sites. One of those would be Mysteries and Conundrums.

Having been away for a few weeks, I spent some time catching up on those sites and read this post by Chief Historian  John Hennessy of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP on the values and limitations of online research. Disclaimer: I met John – once – at a seminar many years ago and I am pretty sure he may have commented once on the old 17th CVI site, have read all all his books and have a great deal of respect for him.

One of the points made by John is that the availability of information on the internet has not necessarily made research better – that it does not necessarily put a better product on the street. This is a fairly loose paraphrasing of John’s post, and he uses his own work as the basis for that evaluation (and is not taking a shot at anybody with a site like, well, like this one). The bottom line here is that John is right.

How so? Speaking of this site, and only this site, which seems to be used by any number of people for their own research into the 17th CVI.  BUT…this site contains a fraction of the material that is available to those willing to drive elsewhere to look at original source material, whether it is at the National Archives or the Bridgeport Public Library. There is a wealth of information out there waiting to be read that adds depth to the story of the 17th, it’s campaigns, it’s soldiers, the families and towns left behind.

This site is only as good as the source material it uses – a lot of it made available as I get it but much more of it sitting in an archive waiting for someone to distill it and get it out to the world. It is, as it has always been, a work in progress.

Given all this, my hope would be that the information on this site would serve as as an introduction, a stepping stone if you will, to those willing to take it further.

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