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The Power of Suggestion: Two Search Tips

Jim Hornstra

Account Executive, Readex

Pronunciation: s&g-'jes-ch&n, s&-'jes-, -'jesh-
Function: noun...
2 a : the process by which a physical or mental state is influenced by a thought or idea suggestion> b : the process by which one thought leads to another especially through association of ideas (Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

The power of suggestion—that's really what the BROWSE feature found in most Archive of Americana collections is all about.

Sometimes researchers have a specific destination in mind when they approach an online resource, but more often than not, the journey begins with a somewhat vague idea lacking specifics. BROWSE is a powerful tool that allows researchers to begin with a general idea and then to select additional terms to narrow the search, or to move in a slightly different direction. In a sense, BROWSE helps the researcher by providing "suggestions" as to how he or she might proceed.

TIP 1: While genre, subject and author are frequently used BROWSE categories, other categories should not be overlooked.

For example, you might think American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series I (ABE) would contain material printed in America. You would be mostly, but not entirely, correct. Clicking on the BROWSE tab labeled "Place of Publication" reveals links to broadsides and ephemera printed not only in 46 American states, but also printed in 18 countries, including, somewhat surprisingly, Saint Helena, an island in the south Atlantic noted as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte's exile until his death. There is, of course, an American connection; the item published in Saint Helena is a broadside from a missionary church located on that "rock of the ocean" to their American brethren.


Returning to the "Place of Publication" tab and following the link to China brings back four results, one of which is a record of a celebration in Canton, China on a day in 1876—a day very special to Americans, the fourth of July. Who would have expected to find a centennial celebration of American independence in China? This patriotic program included the singing of hymns, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, an oration and more.

TIP 2: Harness the power of suggestion!

The subject of this particular publication from Canton, China is indexed in the citation as United States--Centennial celebrations, etc.--China.

While clicking this live citation link reveals no other publications classified in exactly the same way in ABE, the precise classification "suggests" a less restrictive classification would yield additional results and that a more general subject Search might be fruitful, such as United States--Centennial celebrations.

The researcher is rewarded with a list of 40 items worthy of consideration, all dealing with the U.S. centennial celebrations, including this invitation to the citizens of Leicester, Massachusetts:

Another variation of a related search might be to look at centennial celebrations prior to 1876 by searching
Centennial celebrations in Subject and 1760 to 1875 in Year of Publication.

Interesting results include:

an invitation to the first centennial celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Boston (June 17th, 1875),

and an example of American humor and wit from 1875, a satirical invitation to lay the corner stone of a new piggery in Wellesley, Massachusetts.


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