Thursday, March 1, 2012

Old Town Research: The Myth Busters Edition

We’ve spread the news about our research project and now we have some great examples of research to share with you! The project, "Our Town: Preserving the Past," is spreading in popularity, and it's not too late to join us.

Word on the street has it that any type of research is hard, and we’re writing to dispel that myth. If you’re interested in participating, but are overcome with visions of your high school or college research papers, never fear.

Have a cool story about the time you unearthed arrowheads from your yard, or when your parents made you enact a play for the neighbors?

Tell us! We’d be happy to read it – and share it – with the rest of the “Our Town” participants. Understandably, a research project creates anxiety for most of us, so we wanted to give some tips and ideas on how easy the project can be, and share some of the research we have already collected from participants.

Here's an example of a casual narrative:

“This old house has been our home since 2005. A friend told us that he thought the place was built in the 1920s and that at one time there was a potato chip factory in the backyard. The factory has since been replaced with a vegetable garden, and two of the bedrooms have become art studios. Our five-year-old granddaughter now runs a café in our kitchen.”

This narrative is also told in a casual voice:

“This duplex was built around 1930-1940. A carpenter lived in the 2520 side for many years and the many closets and cabinets are evident to this fact. This lot also had a workshop/garage in the back that was damaged during a storm and was recently demolished earlier this year (2012).

The pecan tree in front of the 2520 side can produce amazingly large pecans because there are many other pecan trees in the neighborhood for it to cross-pollinate with. The current renters enjoy the wood floors and the crystal doorknobs, as well as all the window light available.

The current residents’ knick names are Rusty and Lorenzo. She is a photographer/writer and he is a founding member of the Scooter Club Golden Triangle. This was the location of the first “Moveable Feast” dinner club event in 2011.”

Our docent and avid historian, Nat Hallmark, demonstrates a more formal approach to these house “tales” in this excerpt:

“Texas Historical Sites Inventory and Beaumont Historical Landmark Commission describes the style of the home as Vernacular Victorian. It is considered one-story frame with hip roof porch and five Doric columns. Significance of the property was stated as, 'The home represents middle-class housing built in Beaumont after the turn of the century. The original owner was E.B. Hammell, contractor.'(Note: Later is was verifed that L.J. Russell was the original contractor.

If these (or anything in-between) suites your style, sign up for the project by calling us at (409) 832-1906 at our education department. There’s no catch, no strings. After we take down your contact info, it’s just you, your writing utensils of choice, and your experiences (in 500 words or less).

For the more adventurous at heart, we’re also here to help you along with your research, just in case you need some help digging up the past.

Be sure to attend the Tyrrell Library research workshop on Sat., March 3, 2012. The free event, will take place from 10 a.m. to noon, is designed to give historians and amateur researchers an inside look at how to navigate the library’s Web site and hard copy collections.

Reservations are not required, but are encouraged due to materials provided.

Please contact Bill Grace at (409) 833-2759 to sign up and to obtain more details. For more information on the neighborhood walk project or any of the upcoming events, contact the McFaddin-Ward House Museum at (409) 832-1906.

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