Here’s some of the best places to do on site research for historical novels.
Museums and Historical Sites: The best place to do historical research is to visit museums and historical sites where the events happened. The staff at these museums are more than happy to share a wealth of information and answer all your questions. If you live too far for a visit, call these places.
Historical Societies: Historical societies are a wealth of information. If you become a member, the benefits include use of their resources and free or discounted admission to many historical sites. Here’s a few historical societies that have been of benefit to me.
Nature Centers and Hiking Trails: Don’t overlook the landscape. Check out nature trails, and find out what the landscape is like in the setting you’re writing about. Is it hilly or flat? Are there lots of tree/bushes/clouds? What kind of animals roam here? What kind of trees are there? What colors are their blooms in the spring and their leaves in the fall? Visiting a nature center and talking to a nature guide will also answer many of your questions concerning setting.
Universities: If there’s a university near where your story takes place, try calling the university library. They can usually get you in contact with a professor who is an expert in that feild or help you with journals and archives of that time period.
Newspapers: Newspapers sometimes have old editions on microfilm. This is a great way to do research on the time period from a local perspective.
Next Monday, I’ll talk about how to prepare to visit a historical site for research.