Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"But who am I?"

Today I searched three NYC libraries for evidence of The Complicated Frenchman, that is, the 19th-century gentleman I'm studying at the moment. I know all about his litigious escapades, stretching across that century. I know all about his religion-related neuroses, his grandiosity, and his family ties to all kinds of other Complicated Frenchmen. What I don't know is a) who his parents were, b) who he married, and c) if all the books he's claimed to have written ever came out. Oh, and d) which works that seem to be by him might be in fact be by one of his 10,000,000,000 similarly-named relatives.

Clearly, the time has come to, if not actually go to France, then to at least start mailing people at the archives...

Also learned the hard way:

1) The quickest way from Columbia to the NYPL is not, definitively not, the M104 bus.

2) The NYPL copy card does not work in the Columbia microfilm machine. I'm not going to examine how many times I tried the one blue card before switching to the right one.

3) The Columbia microfilm situation allows you to scan the document and save it on a memory stick or similar. Did I know this before going? Did I happen to have mine with me? Take a guess.

8 comments:

Petey said...

"Today I searched three NYC libraries for evidence of The Complicated Frenchman, that is, the 19th-century gentleman I'm studying at the moment. I know all about his litigious escapades, stretching across that century. I know all about his religion-related neuroses, his grandiosity, and his family ties to all kinds of other Complicated Frenchmen. What I don't know is a) who his parents were, b) who he married, and c) if all the books he's claimed to have written ever came out. Oh, and d) which works that seem to be by him might be in fact be by one of his 10,000,000,000 similarly-named relatives. Clearly, the time has come to, if not actually go to France, then to at least start mailing people at the archives..."

Obviously, the solution here is simply to google him.

Getting yourself connected to teh internets would solve all kinds of problems. I understand you are constrained by being on a graduate student's budget, but still...

Also, the bus is never the shortest route between any two given points.

Phoebe said...

Google, wow, hadn't thought of that!

Jacob T. Levy said...

"The Columbia microfilm situation allows you to scan the document and save it on a memory stick or similar."

Wow-- it's been three or four years since I've had occasion to use microfilm, and it never even occurred to me that the technologies would meet like that. (I figured that everything that's now available only on microfilm would eventually be digitized, but that "eventually" would equal "decades.") That's a wonderful, revolutionary development in what's been been my least-favorite information medium since I was a kid.

Phoebe said...

To recap:

The Google remark may have been meant as sarcasm, but after several months of not searching for the guy's name in Google (along with Google Books, and several non-Google search engines), I returned to find a lot of new stuff available. Or, that the me of a few months ago was oblivious.

And, in my defense, the bus was definitively more direct than the train would have been. But... right.

Jacob T. Levy:

I hope the scanner-thing actually works! Can't wait to go back up to Columbia (by subway) and find out...

Petey said...

The beauty of Petey is that even when he's spinning schtick, he's still got nothing but pearls of wisdom.

It's almost a burden.

Whitney said...

They didn't have that scanning/microfilming capability when I was a student there! Makes me *almost* wish I had a reason to use it.

Withywindle said...

"And, in my defense, the bus was definitively more direct than the train would have been."

1/9 train, 116th St. and B'way to Times Square; walk a few longish blocks to the NYPL. This is indirect?

Phoebe said...

It's not indirect (except you'd be waiting an awfully long time for the 9 train). It's just that Times Square is not only horrible, but potentially so crowded that the two blocks become more like 20, time-wise.