The Collaborative Project:Who Says You Can't Go Home Again
By Bruce McKinney
I grew up in New Paltz, New York in the 1950’s and 1960’s. New Paltz was a small town that had a deep vein of history running continuously from its founding in the late 17th century into a 20th century that it seemed to be only reluctantly embracing. In Lane Sargent’s Notions and what-not shop on lower Main Street, in addition to a memorable penny candy counter, you could still buy for their original price, two cents, new post cards that dated to 1910. You just had to know to ask Mrs. Lane if it was okay to take out, from under the counter, the boxes of old unsold ‘new’ stuff.
Auctions happened regularly and everything usually went, even if the bids went down to a nickel to get the goods exchanged for cash. Our spoons, plates and glasses came from such sales. At the post office you could still buy the 1936 6 cent red and blue airmail stamps though you had to ask. Otherwise they would give you the 1947 airmails. In such a place I grew up to love history and books and there were plenty of both.
I left there 30 years ago but never lost interest in either the place or in its history. Since the mid 1990s, with the emergence of the internet, it has become increasingly possible to find on-line and purchase interesting, old and occasionally valuable materials relating to the Hudson Valley, an area that encompasses New Paltz as well as other nearby towns. And I do it from San Francisco. It is absolutely fascinating and rewarding. My interest is specific to a geographic region but every place on the globe has its own history. If you enjoy a good hunt you can reconstruct the history of a place that matters to you. And you can do it using tools that until recently have not existed. In fact, you are among the very first to be able to use these tools to find what has been assumed to be lost or so dispersed as to be beyond reconstruction. It is the internet. It is listing sites such as www.abe.com and it is our (AE’s) software in the Americana field. It may seem like an old idea but it’s execution is very new indeed.
There are three components in this equation: the internet that allows book buyers and book sellers to find each other efficiently; listing sites where books can be stacked up and described and efficiently sorted in an infinite variety of ways; and our Americana Exchange Database that permits anyone with curiosity to search our records to identify long forgotten but interesting materials. Here is how our Database (hereafter, referred to as AED for short) works. On the toolbar are SEARCHES that lead to three options: Bibliographical Database, Archived Articles and Auctions Listings. Select BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DATABASE. This takes you to KEYWORD SEARCH with links to two more complex searches: PRIMARY SEARCH and ADVANCED SEARCH. Much of the time I use KEYWORD SEARCH. With experience you’ll find some aspects of each level of search useful. For this pursuit I use just the KEYWORD SEARCH because I want to find all relating references in a variety of fields.