Hunting for Historical Treasure: Getting Started

Young woman sitting at a desk surrounded by shelves of folders.

Whether you are gathering background information about objects in your collection or working towards a display, guided tour or educational program, sound research is essential. Developing good research skills and practices will ensure you find the most accurate and most interesting information, and take advantage of the widest possible range of sources. It will make research more enjoyable and rewarding and will result in a better end product.

Where to start?

Begin by defining your focus. In other words, if you think about what you want to know, you will be able to work out the kinds of sources you might want to look at. Sometimes you will start with a broad theme and narrow down to a particular focus. At other times you might begin with a particular museum object or a specific idea and work your way outwards in different directions. You might be investigating change over time or focusing on a particular era such as the Depression, the Second World War or the ‘swinging sixties’. Research into a particular time period is often necessary when you are seeking information to place an object in its historical context.