The Collaborative Project:Women’s Westward Travels and Narratives

- by Julie Carleton



By Julie Carleton


I had decided that my “collection” was going to be of narratives written by women that had traveled west of the Mississippi between 1820 and 1920. I was looking for books and/or manuscripts by pioneers, travelers, tourists and homesteaders. My initial aim was for a solid list of 50 to 100 books to start out with.

I began the search strategy by creating a list of possible keywords to search in different fields, a list of relevant AE Categories and a list of Library of Congress (LC) Subject Headings. I knew that I could search the AED for a limited amount of titles under these categories. I also knew could later cross-reference titles and LC Subject headings in the major academic library catalogs. Thus, I figured I would use the AE Categories search as a secondary step after the first run of Database searches.

I first opened and saved three notepad documents to my desktop: Keywords, Search History, and Search History Results. I found that using several small simultaneously open notepads was easier than having to constantly scroll through one large document. In addition, the notepad window can be whittled down to a convenient size on a computer desktop, plus cutting and pasting was less cumbersome than a Word document.

The Keywords notepad contained two things: a list of categories from the AE Category list that would be applicable, and an ongoing alphabetical list of keywords and phrases to use in each of the three types of AED searches. My Search History notepad kept a numerically listed running tab of type of search (i.e. Primary Search), words used in each field, and the number of results with the number of relevant results. The Search History Results document displayed by search number each relevant “match” from that particular search. I literally cut and pasted the source record number, author and title for each relevant record into the Search History Results list.

My initial plan was to maximize all possible search strategies from Keyword to Primary to Advanced. I thought I could create an list of titles, modify the list by deleting duplicates and irrelevant records, and then use the list to do further more refined searches; such as doing separate author searches.

Following is a narrative of my searches.

Primary Search

As I began, my inclination was to start with the AED’s Primary Search screen. I had assumed that I would not necessarily need to use the searchable fields offered in the Advanced Search screen. As I saw it, I would most likely be successful using the author, title and date fields. I might later want to do a word wheel search in specific advanced search screen fields, but my first list was going to focus on the basics: books or manuscripts authored by women that traveled west of the Mississippi between 1820 and 1920.