3 Million Citations! And a full run of Mariner’s Mirror!

Today, I’ve uploaded a file that brings the total number of citations in ShipIndex.org to over 3 million! I’ve learned, as I’ve grown the size of the database, that it gets harder and hard to hit big milestones when you add another set of digits to the citation numbers. Nowadays, adding 100,000 citations is somewhat significant, but I feel like only the rollover in the millions mark (or maybe every half-million) is really worth noting.

The file that’s making the rollover is a very important one, and reflects some changes to data in the database. I’m actually reducing the number of resources in the database, but I think it’s appropriate. I’m not reducing content in any way. Before today, the database contained the following resources, all listed separately:

 

So, the database contained volumes 56-70 and volumes 76-90 of Mariner’s Mirror, the most important journal in maritime history. I’ve now added the missing content – volumes 1-55, and 71-75. And, I’ve put them all into one single ‘resource’, since they really are all the same set. I also standardized how the volume and page numbers appear in each citation. ShipIndex.org now shows ships mentioned in 90 volumes of Mariner’s Mirror. This is valuable stuff.

So, to be clear, I’ve removed five resources from the database, but I’ve kept all of their citations. I put them in a new resource, and then I added new citations to that resource. I’ve added citations for 30 years of Mariner’s Mirror to the database, and not removed any. These 30 years of new content add up to an additional 17,605 citations, getting me over 3 million in the total database.

Now you’ll find just one resource for all of Mariner’s Mirror, which makes a lot more sense:

Also, THREE MILLION CITATIONS.

New Content in Database, Feb 2014

I realized recently that I hadn’t been posting the addition of new content to the blog here. I should have been doing that. I’d been putting it in the newsletters, but not on the blog. So, anyway, here’s a list of content that’s been added over the past few months:

Got something you think should be added? Please let me know!

Using WorldCat Records in ShipIndex.org: Part 2, Finding Books By Ships

My previous post looked at how WorldCat records can be used to locate books mentioned in the database, and locate books that are about a specific ship. There’s still a lot more that WorldCat can do, but there are some idiosyncratic methods of tracking down the actual resources, and I want to write about those here.

Remember that all the citations from WorldCat are in the free database, which anyone can access, without any subscription at all.

A book “by” a ship is one in which the vessel is the corporate author, so this would include logbooks, journals kept by the ship’s crew while on board (that is, while they’re at work; private reminiscences are still written by the person who recorded the information), and similar corporate works. Manuscript collections also include a lot of mentions of ships, and unlike the half-dozen or fewer subject headings of a monograph, a large manuscript collection could have dozens or hundreds of subject headings. (Again, these were determined and assigned by librarians, or more likely, archivists. This is incredibly in-depth work, and the ‘finding aid’ created for a large manuscript collection is often a significant scholarly work in and of itself.)

However, finding the actual manuscript collection can be difficult, and that’s what this blog post is really about. Here’s how to find out which institution owns the manuscript, or journal, or logbook, that you’re seeking. Imagine that you’ve done a search for “Jennie Cushman” and you saw an entry for “Jennie Cushman (Bark)” which led you to this entry in WorldCat, and the entry called “Log/journal, 1870 May 5-1875 Mar. 20″ by Jennie Cushman (bark), looked especially useful.

NUCMC-3

You click on the link for “Log/journal”, which looks great, but has no location listed:

NUCMC-1

So, what do you do?

First, understand where this information came from. These records came from the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, also known as NUCMC, and pronounced “nuck-muck”. If you search NUCMC, you can find who owns the collection.

Go to the NUCMC search page at http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/oclcsearch.html, choose the third search option (you can use any of them, but the others will often return too many unrelated results), and search for the ship name. In this case, your result will look like the following:

 

JCushman-1

 

Click on “More on this record,” and the complete result will provide lots more information about this entry, including its location (highlighted below). Looks like it’s time to book a spot on the ferry to Nantucket!

 

ScreenHunter_07 Jan. 09 15.33

 

There are more records in NUCMC, as noted in the original results from WorldCat. Go back to the NUCMC page and use the first search option, and search for “Jennie Cushman”. You’ll get a lot of results — some that don’t match what you’re searching — but look for the matching titles; in this case, “Papers, 1870-1879“. (You could also search NUCMC by the title of the collection, knowing that the ship name will appear as a subject heading.) This one also has “Jennie Cushman (Bark)” as a subject heading, and a location, in this case at Mystic Seaport, at the bottom.

 

ScreenHunter_08 Jan. 09 15.38

 

Sometimes, however, there’s not even a “Location:” note in the record. Never fear; there are still ways of tracking down the information!

Imagine you’ve done a search for “Abitibi” and you see the entry “Abitibi (Ship)”, which leads you to this WorldCat entry, which then takes you to an entry for archival data, which also has no holdings information.

Again, this record came from NUCMC. Go to http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/oclcsearch.html and search for the ship name. In this case, your third result will look like the following:

 

NUCMC-2

 

Click on “More on this record”, and you’ll see the NUCMC entry for this collection, but without any Location information.

 

Abitibi-1

 

So, now, we get a bit technical. Click on “Tagged Display”, and you’ll see the MARC record for this entry. The only thing to focus on here is the 040 field, which shows which library created this record, and therefore who owns it. (Or, I suppose, who owned it when it was cataloged, but since these are all manuscript records, ownership likely won’t have changed. In any case, we’ll confirm before we book a plane ticket to somewhere.)

The 040 field, subfield a, reads “GZD”. (“$a” is the subfield divider; MARC is a very old technology, but it was cutting edge in its time…)

 

Abitibi-2

 

We now need to discover who “GZD” is. For this, we go to another service from OCLC, maker of WorldCat. At http://www.oclc.org/contacts/libraries.en.html, they offer a “Directory of OCLC Libraries“. Type “GZD” in the “OCLC Symbol” field, and we get this result:

 

ScreenHunter_14 Jan. 10 10.28

OK! Now we know (or feel reasonably certain) that Milwaukee County library owns this item! Google that name to get their website (it’s http://www.mcfls.org/), then search their catalog for “Abitibi”. And there you have it:

 

ScreenHunter_15 Jan. 10 10.30

You can’t request that the library send this to your library, but at least now you know where it is, and that MPL is worth a visit, next time you visit Milwaukee County.

This does get admittedly a bit technical. If you have questions, please post them in the comments below.

Using WorldCat Records in ShipIndex.org: Part 1, Finding Books Mentioned in the Database, and Finding Books About Ships

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about using WorldCat through ShipIndex.org. I finally started, but as usual, my blog post has grown to be much too long for just a single post. So I’ll split this into two posts: one on finding monographs (ie, books) through WorldCat, and one on finding manuscript works through WorldCat. WorldCat does many different useful things in the ShipIndex.org database.

First, what is WorldCat, and what kind of records do you find there? WorldCat is a massive database that shows what books and magazines are owned by libraries in the US and around the world. WorldCat is created and managed by OCLC, an Ohio-based library services company. The first great application of WorldCat in ShipIndex.org is in helping you locate a book that mentions a ship of interest to you. I believe that knowing that a mention of a ship exists gets you at least 75% of the way to finding that citation. If you didn’t know the citation existed, then it wouldn’t count at all. But if you know it exists, then there are lots of ways of getting your hands on it, and seeing what it says. The easiest way is to see if a library near you owns the book, and here’s where WorldCat is a huge help.

If you click on “Find in a library near you” on any monograph (book) or serial (magazine) citation in ShipIndex.org, WorldCat will try to figure out where you are, and then locate the library nearest to you. You can always put in a ZIP code or a city name, too, to customize your search.

For example, imagine you’re searching for information about the ship “Punnet”. The premium ShipIndex.org database tells you that it’s mentioned in H. T. Lenton’s massive volume British & Empire Warships of the Second World War, on two different pages. You don’t own that book, so where can you find a copy?

WorldCat-1

Click on “Find in a library near you”, as shown here, and it’ll take you to this page in WorldCat that shows you more about the book, and most importantly, where the nearest copy is. In my case, WorldCat reports that the nearest library with this book is less than a mile away! (I’m lucky that way.)

WorldCat-2

Other libraries also have it, and maybe one near where I’ll be going has a copy. For instance, if I’m headed to Chicago on some upcoming trip, I could put in a Chicago ZIP Code (or just type “Chicago, Illinois”), and find out what libraries in the city own a copy. (Chicago Public Library and University of Chicago Library both own it, I find.)

If there’s no library near you with a copy, remember that you can almost certainly request that a copy be sent to you through your local public library, via “inter-library loan” (ILL). ILL is sometimes free, and sometimes costs something — but remember what a great thing the library did for you, and be sure to provide a bit of financial support to them for helping you obtain this volume!

 As a somewhat advanced aside, it’s definitely worth looking through multiple records in WorldCat. For technical reasons, not all holdings records (ie, “my library owns this book!” messages) are attached to a single bibliographic description of a book. This is especially true for American versus non-American holdings: if you only see European libraries that own a book, and you’re in the US, be sure to see if there are other records that display American libraries’ holdings, and vice versa.

There’s more to WorldCat’s content, however. One of the great collections of resources in the free part of the ShipIndex.org database is the set of about 40,000 authority records from the WorldCat database, but there can be some challenges in using the results you find there. I thought it would be useful to describe how best to use the results you find here.

WorldCat’s holdings identifies books that are about a specific ship, along with manuscript information about specific ships. In the first case, it’s important to recognize the difference between WorldCat results and other results in the ShipIndex.org database. Any given book will be assigned subject headings by professional librarians. Most books only get a handful of subject headings (rarely more than, say, six), so a book needs to be substantially about a specific ship, if it’s going to have a subject heading for that ship. Lincoln Paine’s 2000 book, Warships of the World to 1900, has the following subject headings: Warships — History, and Warships. That’s it. There’s no mention in the subject heading of the specific vessels mentioned in that book. That’s what ShipIndex.org does: it tells you which specific ships are mentioned in this book. But when you want to find the book, the “Find in a library near you” tool helps you do just that.

If a book is about a specific ship, however, there will be a subject heading for the book, which will also appear in WorldCat. For example, Cathryn Prince’s recent book, Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, has as its primary subject heading Wilhelm Gustloff (Ship). Through ShipIndex.org, you know that an entire book about the Wilhelm Gustloff exists, and you can track it down through whatever channels work best for you.

Wilhelm Gustloff

Several years ago, folks at OCLC were kind enough to generate a list of subject headings that cited ships. We agreed that these citations would be added to the free collection, not the subscription database. The result is that ShipIndex.org helps you quickly and easily find books that are by or about the ships in question, which is super-great.

Wait a minute – what was that about books by ships?

That’s the other part of the collection of records from WorldCat, and the subject of part 2 of this blog post.

 

ShipIndex as a Vessel Name Authority File

[This entry was written long ago, but not posted, because I was having problems with uploading images. As you'll see, images are a critical part of this post! Now that I've gotten that problem resolved, I will add a few more posts soon. PMc]

Last May, I finally completed one very large file for import. This file was incredibly tough to process, but I learned a lot about how one can use the database, and I thought I’d share that information here.

The database is Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters, and it is a collection of transcribed passenger lists for thousands of voyages to Australia, primarily in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Because most records were handwritten, and then transcribed by volunteers, many, many errors crept into the database.

The database has 58,311 records in it. (I believe more are always being added to the website itself, as transcribers complete their work.) One major difference between this and every other resource is that each voyage has a separate entry. In the Ellis Island Database, a user searches by ship name, then goes in deeper by voyage date. In this case, the collection is organized by arrival year, then arrival month, then ship name – so I had to create a separate entry for each voyage, to be able to link to each transcription.

I quickly realized that there were many, many, many errors in the transcription of vessel names. Just looking over the ship names as they appeared in the spreadsheet, it was easy to spot typos – especially with the additional information I had about masters and tonnage, which helped connect a misspelling to a correct spelling.

After correcting numerous such misspellings, I did a test import of the file and found 1707 new ship names would be added to the database. I started to investigate each of those, and found that many were not actually new ship names – they were simply additional mistranscriptions of the passenger lists. As the ShipIndex.org database grows, it’s important to try and minimize the introduction of incorrect ship names.

For example, I saw this entry, which the transcriber recorded as “Maealsar”. The master’s name had been transcribed as “C M de Boer”, and the vessel size as 305 tons.

authblog1
I thought it looked a bit like “Macassar”, but there were no other “Macassar”s in that file. I did a search in ShipIndex.org for Macassar (http://www.shipindex.org/ships/macassar), and found an entry from the American Lloyd’s Register of American and Foreign Shipping for the same year, and found a Macassar there, with a captain C. M. De Boor, and tonnage of 306. Obviously, these are the same ship.

authblog2
I corrected the vessel name, but kept the mis-transcription, too, just in case I was wrong. So the entry now looks like this: “Macassar (corrected; listed as “Maealsar”) (of Amsterdam, C M de Boer, Master, 305 tons, from the port of Balaves to Sydney, New South Wales, 23 Mar 1861)”.

Another example was this name, which had been transcribed as “Magport”:

authblog-3

I thought it looked like it started with an “N”, but found no “Nagport” already in the database. However, a search for “nagp*” turned up “Nagpore”, among others, and a link to the entry of Record of American and Foreign Shipping for the same year returned these two ships:

authblog-4

One has the same master and tonnage as the one in the transcription. It then becomes clear that there’s an “e” hiding behind the bar on the page, rather than a “t”.

 

I felt like it became a combination of genealogy and authority record work. I tried to find sufficient documentation to prove that my analysis was more accurate than the original. And because I had both the entire set of metadata from the source, and the 2.3 million citations already in the ShipIndex.org database, I could more easily determine that various transcriptions were incorrect.

I recognized that ShipIndex.org is beginning to serve as an authority file for vessels. It is certainly my goal to improve the database along those lines, and I will use another blog post to discuss this further.

 

I found many instances of doing this sort of research, and while it took a very long time, it was actually quite fun to nail down a correction. Some were surprising – I guess I can see why one might read this as “Princess of Water”:

authblog-5

 But why in the world would you not recognize that “Princess of Wales” makes infinitely more sense for a ship name?

 

I’ll provide two last examples here. This first one shows how I used the existing metadata for the resource itself to determine the correct ship name.

The beautiful handwriting on this one made it easy to read, and it’s not surprising that it was transcribed as “Oasby”. But there was only one entry in the entire file for “Oasby”, and none in the existing ShipIndex.org database, so it made me wonder.

authblog-6A search through the metadata for the captain’s name, however, found 17 entries with Kennedy as captain (as had been noted in the transcription for this entry), for ship “Easby”, and the full resource has at least 70 other entries for “Easby”. Tonnage data is the same, and after learning of the existence of “Easby”, it’s easy to see that that’s what the ship name was; and the top of the dramatic ‘E’ was lost in the digitizing process.

This made the next new ship name, “Oaton Hall”, easy to resolve to “Eaton Hall”.

Finally, I dealt with this challenging entry by using the existing ShipIndex.org database:

authblog-7I tried searching for “waurego”,  but that returned no ships. By searching for “*rego”, I found all the citations that had a word in the ship name that ends in “rego”. I could easily locate “Warrego”, and confirm that’s the right ship.

There’s other searching that could be done here, too. If I change the search to “*rego$” it returns only the ship names that actually end in “rego”, deleting several, like “Trego Renneger” or “Effrego Ventus”, from the result list.

I’ll put together another post in the next few weeks with more examples of changes and corrections I was able to make, along with a discussion of the importance of authority data for ship names.

 

New Marketing Paths

I’m putting together a new marketing push these days, which consists of a range of traditional to non-traditional approaches.

The most traditional is a series of ads for ShipIndex.org in several maritime and naval magazines over the next few months: Military History, Power Ships, Sea History (I have been writing a column in Sea History about ‘Maritime History on the Internet’ for many years now), and Naval History. Personally, I like print ads. I know there are reasons why they might not be a great idea, but I like ‘em. I may add some online ads, as well, but (despite my previous work with electronic journals) I do love me a good print serial.

I am thinking of doing some ads in genealogy magazines next. Any suggestions on which you think would be most relevant?

The first non-traditional marketing tool is underwriting my local NPR station, WSKG, and I’m writing this now because I heard the first on-air acknowledgement spot earlier today, at the end of “On The Media”, which is a show I very much enjoy. The other spot is at the end of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, which everyone in my family enjoys. I will look forward to see if they have any impact at all. It’s really not that non-traditional, though, is it? I mean, Ancestry.com has been doing it at the national level for a while, and I have heard national underwriting spots for library database companies that individuals can’t even purchase, like EBSCO, ProQuest, and even for Summon, from Serials Solutions. (I’ll admit, hearing the last one was pretty cool.)

The totally non-traditional marketing move is to sponsor collegiate cycling teams. Now, in this case, I expect essentially no financial return from the move, just good karma and psychic positivity. (Plus a cycling jersey with the ShipIndex.org logo on it…) At first, I wanted to sponsor TeamType1, which is now Team Novo Nordisk, but they limit their sponsors to cycling and diabetes products and services. Also, they’re a professional, international cycling team, so I probably couldn’t have afforded it, even if they had accepted me. Then I thought about the local collegiate cycling teams, but the Cornell guy never got back to me, the Ithaca College team seems dormant at the moment, and I wondered why I was thinking about them, and not my alma maters.

The folks on the Carolina Cycling Team know what they’re doing. They put together a great proposal, were quick with the information, plus offered great information about the team and its current status, and were quick and accurate in requesting actual payment. I hope my jersey from them comes soon, and I look forward to keeping an eye on how they’re doing. I’m also going to sponsor the Oberlin College Cycling Club, though they haven’t yet asked for the actual money. I guess I should bug them about that soon. I would gladly sponsor teams at East Carolina University (they’d be especially appropriate, since their institution also subscribes to the database) or Binghamton University (well, SUNY Binghamton, as my wife, the graduate, still calls it). If you know someone there, have them contact me. My research suggested that both are dormant at the moment.

(Since cycling is not an NCAA-approved sport, they don’t have limitations on accepting sponsorship. They also don’t get any [or much] money from their athletic departments, so they need the sponsorships. My wife suggested I try to sponsor rowing teams — at least they’re on the water, after all — but since they’re NCAA sports, they cannot accept any sponsorships. Also, I love cycling, and that’s where I wanted to start.)

So, that’s where ShipIndex.org marketing is going right now. If I’m doing it wrong, tell me how to do it right.

A New Book on the Maritime History of the World

I’ve long felt that all I need to do to make ShipIndex.org a smashing success is to change how the world views maritime history. Maritime history is a mostly-neglected area of study, perhaps because it is, in many senses, the history of the space between places. While parts of maritime history are focused on an individual country (think expansion of the US interior, through and along the Mississippi River), most of maritime history looks at connections between, rather than within, a given country’s borders.

And even if you’re studying regional history, some of the most important aspects of maritime history are in the movement of people and ideas between regions — even, or especially, regions as large as continents.

So, while my primary goal with ShipIndex.org is to “simplify maritime history research”, there’s also a need to make maritime history more relevant, and perhaps more visible.

I’m thrilled to see announcements of Lincoln Paine’s new book of maritime history, titled The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World, to be published in the US on October 29, and in the UK on February 6, 2014. I very much look forward to reading this book. Peter Neill, author of Great Maritime Museums of the World and a past President of South Street Seaport (and lots more; those are how I know of him), wrote in a pre-publication review, “‘I want to change the way you see the world.’ This brave ambition is brilliantly realized by Lincoln Paine in this single volume. Thoroughly researched, clearly argued, eminently accessible — we have at last a responsible and persuasive explanation of the inextricable connection between the ocean and world civilization.” I love that point.

I can’t wait to see the book itself.

Upcoming Genealogy Conferences in NY State

ShipIndex.org will be at several conferences in the next few months.

Come see us in upstate New York, at the first New York State Family History Conference, in Syracuse, September 20-21. It’s co-sponsored by the Central New York Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. The sessions look like they’ll be pretty interesting, and it looks like they might also be pretty packed, as a number of meals and lectures are already sold out.

The exhibit hall is free and open to the public. Come visit us at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center, in Liverpool (just outside Syracuse). Hours on Friday, Sept 20, are at least 9:00 to 4:30, and possibly as long as 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (different sources have times; I’m seeking clarification). On Saturday, the hours are 8:00 am to 3:30 pm. Come pick up a ShipIndex.org bottle opener, try the database, as questions, offer suggestions, or just say hello!

 

If you live ‘downstate’, come see us at the second Genealogy Event, in Manhattan, Saturday, November 2, at the Metropolitan Pavilion, located at 125 W 18th St, New York City. This is the second year of this neat event, and I very much enjoyed exhibiting at it last year. The format this year is a bit different, however. Last year was a two-day event; this year, it’s one long day — in this case, a Saturday. The hours are 10am to 8pm, with all sorts of sessions and workshops through the day.

The exhibit hall will be open the whole time, as well; unlike in Syracuse, you do need to pay to access the exhibit hall. In any case, genealogy gatherings are rare in New York City, and a lot of people attended the inaugural event last year. I look forward to attending, but I think I will need to leave a bit early (like, maybe a half-hour early) to catch a bus home — given the cost of hotel rooms in Manhattan, it makes sense to catch a late bus home, if at all possible. I may miss the last half hour of the show, but the first 9-1/2 hours should be great! Please stop by and say hello if you’ll be there.

 

Beyond the state borders, I anticipate attending Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE, in London, in February 2014, and the National Genealogical Society conference, in Richmond, Virginia, in May 2014. If you know of other events you think I should consider, please let me know.

Guest Post, from Cathryn Prince, Author of “Death in the Baltic”

I’m pleased to offer the following guest blog post, by Cathryn J. Prince, author of Death in the Baltic: The WWII Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The story of this ship is a remarkable one — and one that, until now, was not well-known. I expect this book will change that, however. I’m enjoying reading it, and I hope you will, as well. Ms. Prince has done a great job of telling people about her book, from C-SPAN discussions to bookstore readings (she’s headed to my hometown of Ithaca, NY, November 9 & 10).

I also think this blog post, describing how an author does maritime history research with modern technology, is particularly valuable and insightful. Thanks very much, to Ms. Prince, for sharing these views with us.

Peter McC

 

In the past several years the Internet and then various social media outlets have become invaluable research tools, the former I welcomed straight away, the latter – not so much. However, since I opened both my Twitter account and Facebook account I have to confess that social media has won me over. In fact, I couldn’t do the job I do without social media. As an author, reporter and researcher I find that Twitter, Facebook, tumblr and yes, even Pinterest, essential. This became especially apparent during the research, writing and launch of my most recent book, Death in the Baltic: The WWII Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

At its core “Death in the Baltic” is an oral history about the lives of several survivors of history’s worst maritime disaster. More than 9,000 perished on January 30, 1945 when the Soviet submarine, the S-13 torpedoed the Gustloff as it tried to cross from Gotenhafen (present day Gdynia, Poland) to Kiel, Germany. However, to tell the story of the Gustloff and its survivors I needed to do some maritime history research.

Through Jill Swenson of Swenson Book Development, I learned about shipindex.org. Whether you’re just discovering this site, or are already a follower, you’ll see that it is an essential tool for a researcher. Not only was I able to get the names of ships, I was able to find a vast list of books, online articles, and magazines that mentioned a specific ship.

Through Twitter I’ve connected with Polish historians, poets, and those who endured the last days of World War Two. Indeed social media is an essential arrow in a writer’s quiver because it offers a way to connect with others who may have expertise in your field, potential readers and those with shared interests.

It was through Twitter that I discovered @PolandWW2, which also has a Facebook site. Because of Google alerts I learned about Mike Boring, a deep-sea diver who visited the site of the Wilhelm Gustloff wreck. Through Twitter I’ve connected with World War Two enthusiasts like @ww2resource and @WWII_experts and @shipwreckology.

Nothing replaces traditional face-to-face interviews, and that’s why this book had me traveling from north of Toronto to Las Vegas to Tecumseh, Ontario and on to Ascona, Switzerland. It’s why traveled back and forth to Washington, DC to the National Archives and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In addition, several publications, from the Journal for Maritime Research, a fully online, peer-reviewed journal is key for historical maritime research. There is also the International Journal of Maritime History, IJMH, which is the journal of the International Maritime Economic History Association. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an excellent source to find out past weather. Likewise The Old Farmer’s Almanac can be helpful.

Museums and libraries are another source for anyone researching maritime history.  I contacted the US Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, CT. Home to the USS Nautilus, the museum houses a well-managed and extensive archive. Museums such as the NJ Maritime Museum, the Mariners’ Museum of Virginia, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the National Museum of the US Navy, and the Maine Maritime Museum all have collections – large and small.  Now I didn’t avail myself of the collections each museum had to offer; but I did find that staff at each institution more than willing to point me in the right direction.

I’ve begun work on my next project (which I will keep close to the vest right now) and again find myself tracking down information about old weather reports, ancient sea routes, shipyards and construction. Like “Death in the Baltic” maritime history is a big piece of the story. Again I am again finding the maritime community generous with time and explanation. Each connection yields another connection.

Our mission statement — “Simplify maritime history research”

The other day I was working in my office at the local Tim Horton’s, and a friend walked in. We often see each other there and take a few minutes to chat. He told me that he’s been working with colleagues on defining their company’s mission statement. I’ve done that work in the past, and I find it to be a project that can often be pretty challenging, but is still very much worth doing. Crafting a succinct but accurate mission statement can be tough work, especially if your organization does a lot of different things.

As we talked, I wondered about the mission statement for ShipIndex.org. I feel pretty good that it came to me fairly quickly. I believe that ShipIndex’s mission is to “simplify maritime history research.” That’s it, and I think it’s pretty accurate. My goal isn’t to ‘tell people which books, journals, websites, databases, etc., mention the ships they want to know more about,’ even if that’s what ShipIndex.org currently does. If I can summon the financial, managerial, and intestinal fortitude, my goal is to make maritime history more accessible, more visible, and better understood, through a whole bunch of different paths, tools, and solutions.

I feel strongly that maritime history is a critical aspect of personal, local, regional, national, and world history, and I want more people to recognize it as such. I hope that as people find more effective ways of doing maritime history research, they’ll incorporate it into more of the stories they tell, and society as a whole will provide more emphasis on how maritime history, shipping, and the marine environment in general, impact our lives.

So, that’s the mission statement – “simplify maritime history research”. I believe that ShipIndex.org’s current work does that, and additional ideas that I have will also do that, but there’s so much more that could be done. Thoughts? What other things do you think could be done to simplify maritime history research?