When Old is New Again

Modern technology is wondrous.  I truly mean that in the greatest sense of the word.  We live in an age of miracles and power.  Airplanes connect continents, cell phones connect people anywhere, and computers streamline the flow of knowledge to the breadth of the world’s minds.  These technological marvels are life changing, yet, the old tools can carry a certain charm, and a certain spirit all their own.  We cannot discard them to the trash heap of time.  A pocket watch, a fountain pen, a record player; all have been surpassed, smoothed over, refined.  The tick on the watch, the gentle flow of the pen, the warble of the record, these experiences are worthwhile.  Old tools bring variety to life, a connection that enriches and sustains.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Pocket watches are such delightful machines.  Their clicks, ticks, smooth motion and constant companionship are calming in a sea of digital flashes and beeps.  My wife has given my three pocket watches over a our relationship.  I treasure each one.  The chain reminding me of their presence, the sound of one in a quiet room, the gentle dance of the gears visible in the transparent casing all create such a unique experience.  A cell phone clock may be more accurate, but I will always carry a pocket watch from my wife.  A companion, a talisman, a fine timepiece.

For Christmas this year, I rolled the dice on a fountain pen as a gift for my best friend, he is happy with it.  Why did I get it?  The more I read on it, the more my imagination was captured.  The light touch required for writing, the finesse, and the style of the implement all merged to make writing seem a bit more fun compared to using your average ballpoint.  I ordered a cheap one for myself for a trial, I have a good feeling it will add a bit of flair to my everyday scribbles.

The old tools available today might require more care, time, or money.  There might not be as many features, or might be fragile.  Yet, their unique purpose and spirit provide worth beyond their physical characteristics.  I love museums, I love working with old things.  Taking new versions of some of those objects into my everyday life helps give them a new life in my eyes, and makes everyday tasks just a little more interesting.  Give it try, you may find a old (new) tool to enrich your life!


Tips and Tricks from the Library

I want to pass on a few helpful tips I picked up on recent trips to the library.  There are a wide variety of resources available on library websites, and in the buildings themselves (more than I realized at first).  Please recommend any other tips or resources you know of.

 1.  Journals and Databases:  I love the wide variety of topics that historic journals provide.  However, my local library may not always have a print copy on site, and I can’t always afford the subscription cost of the journal.  Fortunately, many libraries provide access to electronic versions of these journals, free of charge via their website.  Generally you will need to provide your library card information, in return you can access heaps of information from home.  Be patient with search engines, and filter through results listings, the findings can be well worth it.

2.  Use pdf downloads:  Most articles you find can be downloaded as a pdf, to be printed or moved to any device you like.

3.  Pay attention to older sources:  There are so many books that have been sitting on a shelf for years, just waiting for a curious person to pick them up.  Take some time to explore the book stacks.  Let your eyes drift among the shelves.  I have found great books on Roman architecture, Byzantine history, Civil War history and more that have not had much attention in the last decade.  Sometimes older sources can have out of date information, but often they have information that has not been reproduced elsewhere.

4.  Music:  I just very recently discovered that my library allows music downloads!  The music is yours to keep, the only limit is on how many downloads are permitted per week.  Check it out, maybe your library offers a similar service.

5.  Librarians:  These folks are the heroes that keep the whole show running.  Check in with a librarian if you are stuck on where to start for a research project, need help finding a book that seems to be missing, or just want some suggestions for good reads.  Some libraries have a service where you can mention a book you have read, and they will give you multiple books of that type to explore.  It is a great way to find cool, engaging new books and sources.

6.  Web Chats:  Many libraries offer the ability to chat with a librarian from home.  This can be great if you are looking for a few sources for a new exhibit or paper, and want them on hold at your prefered library soon.  The librarian can give you a jump-start from home.

7.  Newspapers:  With the rise of the pay wall for many newspaper websites, it can be increasingly expensive to get news from your favorite papers.  If you do not have the time to visit the library, check for digital access from their website.  Much of the time you will be able to access articles or even full papers from home.

I could fill ten posts with the cool, useful resources of libraries.  Check yours out, walk in with an open mind, and you will be sure to find something new everytime.