Now I Have a Massive Reading List: A Love Letter to Zotero

One of the challenges ahead of me this semester is a lengthy research project. I’m in the process of narrowing down my topic but it will have something to do with historic house museums (HHMs) and the mansions in Fairmount Park.

So on this rainy day, I’ve been sitting at my desk finding my way down rabbit trails of bibliography as I’ve tried to get a handle on the relevant literature on HHMs. I found one fascinating e-book, Andrea Terry’s Family Ties: Living History in Canadian House Museums, and dug through her lengthy bibliography, tracking down articles, essays, and monographs wherever I could. Thanks to the many resources provided by Temple’s Paley Library and the magic of Zotero, I was able to download many of the articles that Terry referred to, as well as many others I found from ever-branching searches. Now to begin picking my way through the mountain of material I’ve amassed.

But before I do that, I want to say a bit about Zotero. When I initially looked at this tool (created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media) after having it recommended to me by three different women who know much more than I do, I found it opaque and couldn’t quite suss out how to put it to work for me. This time around, I’m a convert. Zotero does document management and citation management and it does it well. I think it’s especially useful for journal articles –click the Zotero button when looking at an abstract and it saves all of the metadata AND the full text PDF!– but also for websites in general and library search results.

So now I have 45 sources collected, some of which will turn out to be useless, others which are little departures from HHMs-proper (Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders, for instance, which I hope to blog about soon), and most of which I will not have time to read in their entirety. But I will read a lot of them, and hopefully have a better understanding of the field when I’m done.

I’ve copied my current Zotero folder over into a Group, which you can access here: www.zotero.org/groups/hhm_sources/items/ . If you have material you’d like to add to this Group, let me know and I can add you to it.

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