Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2003 Issue

Westerly Women in America: A Journey Through the AE Database


AE DatabaseMidland Notes 69-015

By Julie Carleton


For my part of the TCP project, I chose to collect Women’s Western Travel Narratives. I had an interest in this subject for several reasons. For one, this is a theme that I can personally relate to: I enjoy reading other people’s travel experiences, and I have a historical interest in the “Westward Movement” of the 19th century. As well, I wanted to gain a comprehension of the scope and volume of this type of literature. My goal for this project is to “own” a collection of materials that encompass a broad range of travel narratives, from the diaries of pioneers and homesteaders on the Oregon Trail, to the vacationing lady from the Boston visiting the west for the first time. I wanted this collection to reflect the first hand observations and discoveries of geography, flora, fauna and Native Americans.

Progress of Searches:

At present, I have completed a total of 180 different searches in the AE Database. I have also searched other catalogues such as the Library of Congress and Yale University’s Orbis catalogue. Initially, I had created an initial “Collection List” of approximately 100 titles as a result of these searches; 98 % of these titles came from the AE Database. After experimentation and improvement upon search strategies, I now have a list of 208 titles that have been entered into AE’s “Wants List” Software.

My search strategies have remained fairly consistent throughout the TCP Project. As in last month’s segment, I continue to use my “Keyword List” of “hot” words and phrases such as “overland & narrative*”, either independently or in conjunction with other words in “Primary,” “Advanced,” and “Keyword” Searches. As I find new and interesting titles, I read through the comments and description of the records to find new words to search with. I have noticed that the results of these types of word and phrase combination searches seem to result in approximately 300 or less records.

Another strategy which I adopted was to run very broad searches, using just one or two words for a primary search. I literally plugged in the name of each state and/or territory such as “California” or “Arizona” in the title field. Not surprisingly, these searches often resulted in just fewer than 1500 records. Since 1500 records is the cut-off point for the AE Database retrieval, I wanted to make sure that the searches would be under this amount. If they came out to be more than 1500, then I would immediately add a limiting word such as “travel*” or “emigrant*” to the search in order to get fewer results.

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