Friday, March 26, 2010

Reference Databases To Swoon By

I'll admit some of these are old friends. I've walked down their cobblestone paths before, but I've never divulged them in front of a live (debatable) audience before. What's been on my mind today is research, but that's not new. Not the research you need to do for work or school or your current project, but the joyful research that comes from learning new things about something you knew very little of before. I give you, the databases I look at when I need to be inspired (but not for any specific purpose).

New York Public Library Digital Database: You might know of this one already. If so, good! If not, good! Here it is and your life on the internet will never be the same. This collection of images grouped by architecture, art, graphics, nature, culture, cities is dizzying and totally satisfying. Cultured crack. Here's what I drooled over today:

[Winged beetle, beetle on leaf, and beetle.]
[Winged beetle, beetle on leaf, and beetle.] - NYPL Digital Collection
[Woman applying lipstick in mirror.]
[Woman applying lipstick in mirror.] (1917) - NYPL Digital Collection

Why lipstick and beetles? Simply because those were the two things simultaneously on my mind a moment ago. On the front page of the NYPL Digital Collection is a magic search bar. You can type in whatever is interesting you at the moment and go from there. Or browse the categories if you're feeling organized.

And here are the other lovelies for today:

Los Angeles Public Library image database: Simply type in a keyword to start exploring. For instance, when I entered "Hedy Lamarr" (my favorite b&w actress and wartime genius), this image came up:

"Boomtown Actors", Actors by oil derricks! Weird and glamorous! Spencer Tracey! Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr, and Frank Morgan. (Thanks to LAPL)

Smithsonian Research and Collections Database: I'll admit I haven't explored this one too much yet. I'm saving it for a free hour. But, seriously, it's the Smithsonian. It's not going to suck.

So here they are.  Perfect internet cruising for a dull day at work or a late evening insomnia session. I have more to add now and have more in my magic bag of links, but I think I'll keep you on tenterhooks for a bit while you browse these babies.

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