Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Research: What interests you?

Posted on: June 23, 2010

We have all asked students  “What interests you?”   What interests you often the toughest part when beginning a research process.   If we’re passionate about a topic, or perhaps only interested, the “information finding” process is fun.

What are the facts behind the novels “A Flickering Light, and Absence soGreat? by Oregon author Jane Kirkpatrick?  Kirkpatrick based the historical fiction novels on the life of  her grandmother, Winona, Minnesota, photographer  Jessie Gaebele, and her grandfather, photographer FJ Bauer.   She relied on interviews with family members and  primary sources including family letters, photos and diaries to gather information for her novels.  She researched the Winona County Historical Society archives, read other historical accounts and examined city directories in Eau Claire, Wisconsin where Jessie also worked.

As I read the novel I kept turning to the map of Winona in the early 1900’s to see the locations of the homes, businesses and photography studios mentioned in the books. Curious about the real places described I drove around Winona to see what is in those locations 100 years later.   The  homes are intact; the studios have been replaced by new structures.  The Winona historic newspaper archives provided glimpses of advertising for the FJ Bauer and Polonia Photography studios.

Polonia Studio

Polonia Studio ad, Winona Republican Herald, March 8, 1913.

My search of the American Memory collections yielded nothing about or by Jessie Gaebele, but I did a photo of Lake Winona and Sugarloaf similar to one Jessie took.  The author’s website provided additional information and photos not included in the book. It was a  wonderfully fun treasure hunt inspired by an interest in Winona, primary sources and photography.    What interests you?

Learn how you can use primary sources to locate resources that support books you enjoy or books your students read.
Teaching with Primary Sources, Online Course Information: http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/primarysources.cfm

Register Online: http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/register.cfm


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