National Park Service - Maritime Heritage Program
Historic Ships

Sources and Research Tips
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Sources. Ships are part of a maritime world that is international in scope and centuries old. Ships are a product of the efforts of many and can be understood from the perspective of the people who design them, the people who build them, the people who employ them, as well as the people who operate them. Because the world of ships includes many different cultures, occupations, and places, information about them can be found in numerous and varied sources. Such materials include, but are not limited to, art and archaeological resources, business, government, labor and legal records, naval architecture and marine engineering documents, insurance records and vessel registers, military records, as well as port books and customs accounts.

The information provided on these pages is only a small representative sampling of web sites that are available for learning about ships and their place in history. The information is organized into five sections:

1. Web sites with general reference and research guides
2. Web sites with comprehensive collections of maritime links
3. Web sites for select organizations with online maritime collections
4. Web sites for other organizations with notable online materials
5. Web sites for organizations addressing the current maritime world

Each collection of web sites is annotated to highlight its useful features and to aid the viewer in navigating the site.

The resources cited are generally for select 18th, 19th, and 20th century English language materials provided by a few of the notable libraries, archives, museums, and other maritime institutions of the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. This information is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the many fine maritime organizations and collections that exist worldwide. Instead it is simply a select reference list of resources that can help answer some of your questions, prompt you to ask new questions, and encourage you explore new resources for discovering more about ships and maritime history.

Research Tips. Whether you are interested in general reading or scholarly research, locating resources and learning about ships and maritime history requires only good organization, logical thinking, and a few methodical steps:
1. Identify your topic
2. Identify the key concepts associated with your topic
3. Assign terms to those concepts
4. Consult catalogs and reference resources using your search terms
5. Revise you search terms if you cannot locate desired materials
6. Identify potential materials that will tell you about your topic
7. Evaluate and select the materials you've identified
8. Work through the materials you've selected and synthesize the information

You can begin research at a public, university, research, or specialty library, or online through Internet subject indexes or search engines. Generally you will first want to work through secondary sources such as books, journals, periodicals, newspapers, dictionaries, encyclopedias, or web documents before considering archival research. Think about the amount of information and the level of detail you are seeking and look for timely, relevant, well-written, well-researched publications. Often a publication with good footnotes and an extensive bibliography can provide you with a useful overview of the scope of research and resources available on a particular topic.

As you work through these materials you will also want to evaluate their quality as an information resource. Things to consider include the date of publication, the scope of material covered, the type of resources consulted by the author, and the credentials of the author and publisher. When assessing the content of the publication consider if the author's conclusions seem valid, well researched and adequately supported by evidence referenced with footnotes or a bibliography.

If your secondary sources provide you with the information you seek, it may not be necessary to conduct original research. Often an encyclopedia or directory will answer your question. Other times, a clear picture of your topic can only be obtained after carefully piecing together evidence from numerous primary sources. Even then however, there can still be unanswered questions and your current research will open up new topics for exploration.


Historic Ships Listed By Name Historic Ships Listed By Type Historic Ships Listed By Region and State
Inventory of Historic Ships Some Basics About Historic Ships Historic Ships to Visit Home Page

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Last Modified: Fri, Sept 15 2000 10:13:42 am EDT

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