The Research Librarian Speaks Out Again
My previous post was a small jab at Wikipedia – not a reliable source but it can be a good place to start.
Now I’ve started The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hanna Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The first 75 pages or so are Gates’ Introduction briefly describing the research he did to verify the manuscript. He believed the source of it that it really was a manuscript written by a female slave in the 1850’s. But he didn’t want to publish it without better authority. In order to do this he needed to search the ancestry databases available.
Here’s a quote from his Introduction. He was searching the records of slaves from the mid-1800’s.
Electronic indexes – on CD-ROM and on-line…can be enormous time-savers but can never replace examination of an actual document. Human error in the replication of such an enormous database as the U.S. federal censuses in inevitable.
There’s a lot available online. But not everything is – “can never replace examination of an actual document” – a reminder when we think we’ve exhausted our resources.