Skip to Main Content

HST 346: U.S. Historical Geography (Paradis)

Resources for HST 346: U.S. Historical Geography taught by Tom Paradis (Spring 2021)

Research Strategies-Content

  • Remember that buildings have lives, just as much as people do.  They are centers of human activity, and in some ways take on lives of their own as nexus points for human interaction.  They can become entities in their own right.
  • Buildings are designed and built by people and corporate entities.  Find out who those people/corporate entities are and track them; know their histories.
  • Buildings are owned and inhabited by various people and corporate entities.  Know who these are.  Again, track them and know their histories.
  • A building can hold several separate sections, businesses, etc. that have their own names.  Know what these are and track them.  For example, Union Station has housed many small businesses.
  • Buildings change name over the years; know what all the forms of name are and when and why the changes took place.
  • Know the original function of the building you’re researching.
  • Some buildings change function over the years (ex. public school, factory, or warehouse becomes condos or small businesses or artists’ studios).  Example: Stutz Business and Arts Center, built in 1911 as a Stutz automobile factory.
  • The function of a building can direct you to sources.  You will find very different sources for private homes, public and private universities, commercial buildings, government buildings, civic buildings, churches, factories, auditoriums, parks, etc.  Don’t look in a source for private homes when you need to research government buildings.
  • Street addresses can change over time so see if this affects the building you’re researching.
  • Be aware of major rehabilitations done to buildings, including additions.
  • Be aware of major changes to areas immediately adjacent to buildings.  This could be other buildings being built or demolished; streets being changed; etc.
  • Be aware of major events that have taken place in a building.  Reports of the events can lead to more information.
  • Be aware of what was on the land your building inhabits.  Were structures torn down? Were they incorporated into the building? (ex.: a public school was incorporated into the Indiana State Museum).  What was there before?  Fields, forest, parking lot, dump, houses, etc.
  • Be aware that some information about a particular building may not be available to you, or even extant.  Information is lost over the years for very old buildings.  For newer buildings, some information may not be available because it is proprietary, is trademarked or under copyright and not to be shared, or there may be security reasons why the information won’t be shared. 
  • Don’t forget that people can be excellent sources of information, especially for newer buildings.  This includes the people who designed and built the building, and those who work there in many capacities.

Be aware that there are two ways to search for names, subjects, etc.: using keywords (natural language), and controlled vocabulary (Library of Congress subject headings, LC forms of name, etc.).  Using both will give you the best chance of finding the best sources for your project.  Sometimes the natural vocabulary and controlled vocabulary terms are the same, but it’s important to know how to find controlled vocabulary terms.

To find controlled vocabulary terms, go to the library home page, then to the Advanced Search tab (in pink) below the main search box in WorldCat.  The advanced search tab will pull up a search screen with three boxes, pre-labeled with keyword, author, and title.  Any of these boxes can be changed to any of the supported search terms.  Enter your keyword terms into one or two boxes and search.  When the search results come up, look to find a record that looks like a good match for you topic and click on it.  This brings up the record for that item.  Go to the Description tab and click.  This brings up a description of the item, including the Library of Congress subject headings and forms of name.  Write these down to remember them.  Also the subject headings and names are hot links, so clicking on them brings up every record in the WorldCat database that uses that term.  We will discuss ways to limit your searches in class.

For your research project, start a research log.  Write here every keyword and controlled vocabulary term you use and not if it’s useful or not.  This will help you refine your search.  Be aware that some databases use their own controlled vocabulary, so find out what that is and add those terms to your list. 

When searching for buildings, be aware that some do not yet have Library of Congress forms of name, and there may be no form of name in the Description portion of the record for an item.  Instead you may need to search using the kind of building (hotel, skyscraper, etc.).  Also remember that many buildings have had more than one name over their lifetimes (even relatively new buildings can have several names), so keep track of these names.  Without them, you’ll only get part of your building’s history.  Some buildings also have formal names and informal or nicknames, or variant forms of name, including spellings (theatre versus theater, for example).  Try all of these, and keep track of which forms are the most useful.

LC=Library of Congress subject or name

  • Broad Ripple (Indianapolis, Ind.) LC
  • Broad Ripple (village)
  • Wellington (village)
  • Warfleigh (neighborhood)
  • Jacob Coil (est. BR in 1836 and named it)
  • White River (Ind. : River) LC
  • White River Canal/Central Canal
  • Indianapolis Water Company LC
  • Indianapolis Water Works Co. LC
  • Union Traction Company
  • Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company
  • White City Amusement Park (opened 1906)
  • Broad Ripple Amusement Park
  • Broad Ripple Park
  • Monon (Railroad) LC
  • Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway Company LC
  • Washington Township (Marion County, Ind.) LC
  • Indianapolis (Ind.)—Maps. LC


Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937

Like us on FacebookInstagramFollow us on Twitter