Saturday, July 14, 2018

Social Media in 1898?

Gabrielle Here:

I often tell people I don't know what I love more: writing or history. Give me a couple hours to myself in a museum, and I will get completely lost in research. One of my favorite research tools is reading old newspapers. It's amazing what you can find. I have to be careful, though, because I might be looking for something very specific (like what stores were in my hometown in 1898), but then I discover a juicy little tidbit and I'm suddenly down the proverbial rabbit trail. At times like that, I have to make a note to myself to return on a different day and treat myself to a different research trip.

A little while ago, I had one of those fun days at my local historical society, where it was just me, my laptop, and the microfilm reader.

My computer behind me and the (awesome & new)
microfilm reader beside me.

For two hours I immersed myself in 1898 newspapers. I read the paper from January to the end of April and I could have continued, if no one needed me at home.

This was the first time I used the new microfilm reader! I
know I'm a bit of a dork, but this was awesome. :)
Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society

What I love about newspapers from that time period is how personal they were. One of my favorite sections is the "Come And Gone" column where they reported who went where, who visited who, who came to town, who left for good, who is now employed where, etc.

Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society

Another section of the paper was reserved for news specifically about local citizens. Who hosted a dinner party (and who was invited), who has been ill, who is going in for surgery, who has had a fire, who is constructing buildings and homes, who is filling in at the post office for the postmaster as he's been ill, and on and on and on! It paints a thorough picture of life in our town in 1898 - and it's wonderful fodder for a novel.

Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society

As I read through the newspaper, I was struck with the realization that Social Media is not a new invention. As humans, we're a curious lot of people, and we like to know what's going on with the people in our community. Whether that community is our neighborhood, our town, the blogosphere or Facebook/Twitter, we enjoy learning about people's lives.

The important thing is to use that information well. Social media can be a great tool - or a scary weapon.

What about you? Would you enjoy sitting in a museum and reading newspapers from 1898? Would you like if your local newspaper kept tabs on your every move? :)

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events.

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  1. You are a history geek after my own heart. When I went to the top floor of the Sear's Tower (It has been renamed but everyone still hangs on to its old moniker. Sorry, rabbit trail.) Any who, at the top of the tower is an observation deck. A wonderful panoramic view of Chicago is the draw. And there is a huge historical time line of Chicago in the center of the room. While my family stare at Chicago and took pictures I read every word on that timeline. Fascinating. Then I popped over and took a few moments looking at Chicago. My husband and I visited Springfield Illinois shortly after the Lincoln Museum opened. We spent the entire day reading and viewing every exhibit. We even took time to take the tour of the old State Capitol. We had a wonderful time. I'd take a museum over a amusement park any day unless the amusement park had a museum. :)

  2. What a great story! I might enjoy looking at a paper, especially if I could find tidbits about my relatives! Thanks for the info.

  3. I would love to be sitting and reading microfilm of old newspapers. I had a subscription to an online old newspapers website, and spent hours reading them and searching them. The advertisements are so much fun, as well as the stories they tell. I'm thankful that everything I do is NOT in the papers!

  4. This is a great post. I had no idea all those different things were in the local paper. What a wonderful source for you even with something as simple as coming up with names for future books set in that time and place.

  5. Nice post. I can recal some reading newspapers when I was younger and there were be sections telling you visited you, etc. Our local paper does publish tidbits about 100 years, 50 years and 25 years ago for that specific day which is interesting.

  6. Gabrielle, wonderful post.
    I for one would not like everything I did show up in the local newspaper, however, I would enjoy reading those old newspapers from 1898.

    Blessings, Tina