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Online Research for Worldbuilding

Although a local library is always a good spot to do research, the internet is chock full of interesting sites for historical details.

Historical Societies are sometimes the best source for questions about a specific time and place. They have archives of written records, local lore, publications, photographs, and paintings.

The American Historical Society has compiled a list of affiliated groups. 

Artcyclopedia provides links to museums worldwide where works by over 8,200 artists can be viewed for art history research.

Wikipedia has compiled the most comprehensive list of national and international Historical Societies.

Archeology Magazine offers articles on ancient history from around the globe. 

Best History Sites provides links to historical data from all eras and areas of history. It is primarily targeted for educators, but could be a significant source for writers.

Digital History offers an up-to-date textbook, as well as essays on film, private life, and science and technology, and visual histories about Lincoln’s America and America’s Reconstruction based on primary sources such as gravestones, historical advertising, and letters to give a more vivid picture of American History.

EBSCO features databases on topics such as American History with abstracts from historical documents, a database of historical images, abstracts, and links to Life and Time Magazine archives.

History Online is a resource for researching the history of the United Kingdom 

Hunter Gatherers This article lists some of the remaining tribes you can research for further information about their lifestyle and habitat. 

Internet History Sourcebooks from Fordham University collates public domain and copy permitted historical texts. Topics include ancient, medieval, modern, women’s, and Islamic history among others. 

The Library of Congress offers The American Memory Collection which contains a wealth of materials on American history including thousands of photos, maps, documents, and even sheet music. In addition, the site offers online exhibits, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for there is online resource to ask a librarian. 

My Modern Met has a gallery of fashion for different eras. 

The National Archives catalog has links to data, digitized records, selected series from Access to Archival Databases (AAD), over one million electronic records from the Electronic Records Archives (ERA), all of the web pages from, and all of the web pages from the Presidential Libraries. 

National Geographic provides a look at the past and the present through their online archives and their television specials, some require a fee, others are free.

Open Culture  offers a collection of vintage sewing patterns for many historical eras.

Open Culture also offers free courses in ancient History, Literature, and Philosophy.

Perseus Digital Library from Tuft University is a massive archive of  data on the ancient world, including archaeology, atlas, texts and translations as well as English Renaissance and the American Civil War. Some documents are in their original language.

Project Gutenberg has a large collection of over 20,000 public domain books. The best way to get a feel for an era is to read materials from that time and place. You can download the books in multiple formats: from html, to PDF, to E-book. All are free. 

The US Government Manual can tell you everything you need to know about how the government runs, the departments, duties, procedures for all branches.  You can also read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Vintage Costume Groups article lists costume groups by state. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

Next week, we look at the Revision Tips for Your Setting.

For advanced worldbuilding check out SBB Build A World Workbook in print and ebook.

Research Virtual Reality Tours

We don't have the starship holodeck yet, but we are growing closer every day. In the meantime, we have 360-degree tours and some cutting edge virtual reality tour options.

There are hundreds of thousands of 360-degree travel videos on YouTube. A simple search will bring up options for viewing contemporary cities across the globe.

Londontopia recreates a trip through pre-Fire 17th-century London, all that's missing is the smell.

Time Looper offers re-enactment videos of New York, Washington DC, London, Budapest, Berlin, and Izmir. You must download their app and subscribe.

The Discovery Channel has developed a series of Virtual Reality experiences. You have to download the app.

Gala360 utilizes Oculus and Google play to allow you to tour collections derived from thousands of photographs of museums, landmarks, and various cities. Some experiences have commentary acting as a tour guide. Some of their material is free, some requires a subscription.

Google Earth’s VR app for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive allows you to virtually trek across the globe and out into space.

Jerusalem 360 allows you to zoom around the ancient city.

Virtual Free Sites lists free videos that allow you to explore everything from the Amish in Pennsylvania to the Arctic Circle, including virtual and walking tours through cities and museums.

Visit Scotland has an app that allows you to explore major tourist sites.

Ascape offers a virtual reality travel agency that scans thousands of virtual videos to curate your armchair tour.

You don't need VR gear to view many of the videos, but if you want a more immersive experience, there are services that take you to the next level of virtual experience:

Google Cardboard is for the ultra-thrifty.

Next week, we look at maps.

For advanced worldbuilding check out SBB Build A World Workbook in print and ebook.

Film Reenactments and Role Play

There have been several interesting reenactment documentaries where modern volunteers explore role playing in various eras. Attempts are made at accuracy, but of course they are aware they are pretending and comment on the progress of their adventures. Still, it can illustrate some of the difficulties and challenges of the life. Some videos are available for purchase and some can be found on streaming services such as Amazon, PBS, BBC, and Acorn TV. Some are free to watch on YouTube.

The 1900s House featured a modern family living like late Victorians in 1900s for three months in a modified house.

The 1940s House follows one modern family facing the challenges of domestic life on Britain's home front in a recreation of a World War II household.

At Home With The Georgians reconstructs the 18th Century Georgian and traces the unique relationship Britons enjoyed with their homes, arguing that the Georgians' obsession with decor helped to redefine the parts played by men and women in British society. Characters from all walks of life, including gentlewomen in their stately mansions and servants with only a locking box to call their own, are brought to life as Amanda reveals the private diaries, intimate letters and curious artifacts of the age where the modern notion of a 'home' was born.

The Colonial House featured families recreating daily life in 1628 on an isolated stretch of Maine coast, creating a functioning and profitable colony using only the tools and technology of the era.

The Edwardian Farm followed three archaeologists as they spend a year attempting to live as Edwardian farmers in the early 1900s.

The Frontier House featured a family attempting to live like the early settlers in 1880 Montana without modcons, off-screen assistance, etc.

The Manor House follows nineteen Britons as they live as the Lord and Lady and their servants in early 1900s England.

Pioneer Quest follows two couples as they assume the lives of early settlers to the West.

The River Cottage follow Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's experiment of living off the land in Dorset through three seasons of challenges.

Secrets of the Castle follows life in a medieval castle.

The Texas Ranch House follows fifteen people as they struggle to run a real-life ranch in Texas.

Tudor Monastery Farm Pre-Reformation England emerged as a fundamentally different society, with Catholicism and its rites infusing every element of daily life. As tenant farmers Goodman, Ginn, and a newcomer to the series, archaeologist Tom Pinfold, worked land owned by the local Benedictine monastery, and paid their rent in wool.

The Victorian Pharmacy shows what it was like to run a pharmacy before modern medical advances.

The Victorian Slum House explores life in the not so gentle London slums.

Wartime Farm replicates WWII Britain's agricultural and domestic challenges. Three individuals spent a year living on a reconstructed farm from the era.

Vintage Civil War History Reenactment is reenactments of Civil War  Battles and the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln.

Next week, we look at Virtual Reality tours.

For advanced worldbuilding check out SBB Build A World Workbook in print and ebook.

Story Research: Reenactments and Living History

People love to dress up and recreate their favorite points in history. Some are more hardcore than others. Participants pitch tents, cook over a fire, sleep on cots and try to keep it as "real" as possible. Others prefer to dress up and mingle for fun. Serious money is invested in costumes and equipment.

Is there any historical benefit to reenactments? Some. Groups differ in their adherence to detail, but many have closely studied and strive for as much realism as possible short of actually dying of gunshot. You can learn a lot should you attend one of these events or find a participant willing to help you with research. Reenactors love talking about their passion. You might even be inclined to participate.

Recollections provides a list of the Top 29 Reenactment Societies for the Revolutionary war, Civil War, War of 1812, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, and Korean War. 

Wikipedia also has an extensive list of reenactment societies from the Middle Ages to the world wars.

Another possibility is living history museums. There are many scattered throughout the United States and around the world. I will list a few examples.

Conner Prairie near Indianapolis, Indiana takes you to 1800s Indiana including a Lenape Indian village.

Canterbury Shaker has 25 restored original Shaker buildings, 4 reconstructed Shaker buildings, and 694 acres of forests, fields, gardens, nature trails, and mill ponds under permanent conservation easement.

Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is the largest reenactment village covering the 1800s South.

George Ranch near Houston, Texas explores 100 years of Texas history on a 20,000-acre working ranch featuring historic homes, costumed interpreters, and livestock.

Greenfield Village is located within the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan. Nearly one hundred historical buildings were moved to the property and arranged in a "village" setting. The museum's intent is to show how Americans have lived and worked since the founding of the country.

Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts is an authentic 18th-Century New England village. The 18th and 19th-century houses of the village center, many on their original site, are filled with antique furnishings range from the first English settlement to the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 20th century.

Historic St. Mary's in Maryland depicts life in a 17th century colonial plantation.

Old Sturbridge's outdoor living history museum in Massachusetts depicts 19th-century New England.

Old World Wisconsin living museum takes you to an 1880s village built by German and Scandinavian immigrants.

Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts is an open air early pilgrim settlement.

Strawberry Banke Museum in historic downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is an authentic 10-acre outdoor history museum dedicated to bringing 300+ years of American history in the same waterfront neighborhood to life.

For extensive lists you can turn to Wikipedia:


Next week, we take a look at Film Reenactments.

For advanced worldbuilding check out SBB Build A World Workbook in print and ebook.

Story Research: Festivals & Faires

At Renaissance Faires, the historical accuracy is questionable, but they are enormous fun if you wish to pretend to be a lord or lady watching a joust or perhaps witnessing a visit from a Queen. You occasionally find individuals knowledgeable about the period.

There are now Steampunk Faires dedicated to the Victorian Steam Age with scientific advances including robotics. You can meet makers, tinkerers, costumers, and gadgeteers.  You can find out more by visiting these sites.

Renaissance Fairs offers a list of upcoming Renaissance Faires through the US.

Wikipedia also offers an extensive list:

Steampunk Conventions

Steampunk World's Fair

Wikipedia offers a list of Steampunk events:

Jane Austen has her own cult following and multiple opportunities to pretend you are hanging out with her characters.

Jane Austen Weekends offer you a chance to escape to Regency England in a beautiful old mansion where Jane herself would feel at home.

The Jane Austen Festival in Bath England is in the autumn every year. It is the largest gathering of Jane Austen fans in the world. There are more than eighty events over ten days. You can visit the baths or dance at a masked ball. 

Jane Austen Evening features high tea and an evening ball. 

Or perhaps you'd like to visit a wizarding school. Bothwell School of Witchcraft in East Sussex England hosts weekend-long role play opportunities for lovers of the Harry Potter universe but is based on an entirely different story world.

There are other opportunities to role play different eras and beloved books. Investigate local events in towns near you or search for particular topics.

Check in next week as we take a look at Live Reenactments.

For advanced worldbuilding check out SBB Build A World Workbook in print and ebook.

World Building: Build A Map Tools

Should you have a map? Must you have a map? No. It is a very personal decision and largely depends on the genre of your book and whether it is in print, though there are now options for adding images to ebooks. Some people love them, others never glance at them.

Whether you are writing Fantasy, Science Fiction, or even Mystery, building a map of your story world can be fun for you and your readers. It is a fun addition to your website.

You can do it just for yourself for reference when writing your book. I like to draw room plans for choreography purposes, but those aren't included in the finished product.

If you have spent a great deal of time researching or building a story world, the maps can help you avoid continuity errors.

I used a map of Rhodes Greece to plot my character's 30 day journey on Mythikas Island. (Blatant plug, the new ten-year anniversary editions are available!). 

Here is a map from Mystery author Deborah Crombie. I highly recommend her books which are set in London.
And from the romantic Fantasy The Princess Bride by William Goldman:
Here is a list of articles with tips for creating maps.

1. How to Create a Map for Your Fantasy World Updated on March 15, 2018 M. T. Dremer

2. How to Make a Custom Map for Your Fantasy World by JANLOOS

3. 10 Rules For Making Better Fantasy Maps by Lauren Davis

4. Generating Fantasy Maps by Martin O'Leary

5. Creating a Map for Your Fantasy Novel by jademphillips

6. Map Creation for Fictional Worlds by Tina Dubinsky

7. Planet Maker allows you to design your own planets.

Here is a list of Instructional Videos

1. How to Make and Design a Fantasy World Map by  Shipwreck Samantha

2. Generate Your Own Random Fantasy Maps by Mark Frauenfelder

3. How to Draw Medieval Cities: Fantasy Mapmaking Tutorial for DnD

Here is a list of software options for map building.

1. Roll For Fantasy Map Builder allows you to the create a whole world of your own design using over 1400 different images. It includes natural parts for the inner landscape, like forests, mountains, and hills. All of these elements can be dragged around if you enable this feature.

2. World Spinner is for gaming, but allows you to render a high-quality map. No other tools or artistic skills required!

3. Otherworld Mapper software

4. Profantasy software  Campaign Cartographer 3+ is faster, easier to use and creates more attractive maps than ever before.

5. Inkmate is a site where you can build fantasy world maps.

Here is a list of Photoshop Brushes and other image sites for map building.

1. Fantasy Map Symbols has a large collection of downloadable images and map elements from terrain to castles.

2. Shutterstock has images for purchase

3. Deviant Art  has a large assortment of medieval brushes.

 5.  Adobe Fantasy Brushes

Next week, we will take a look at researching your historical setting, starting with Fairs and Festivals.

For advanced worldbuilding, check out SBB Build A World Workbook in print and ebook.

Story Research: Maps

Throughout history, borders have constantly shifted. Countries come and go. Manmade designs are built, moved, abandoned, or renamed. You can't rely on modern maps for historical accuracy. Luckily, there are multiple resources for both modern and historical settings.

Metrocosm allows you to watch the rise and fall of cities across time. watch world cities disappear

Ancient Roman RoadsThis source overlaid the ancient roman road system with modern subway maps.

Google Maps allows you to zoom into Satellite and Street View in many locations and move around the area you wish to explore. You can see how a city is laid out, walk down its Main Street, or find the subway stations. You can look at the facades of famous homes and tourist sites.

You can go further if you enter Google Earth Voyager From note cards to video tours, this service takes the basic street view to a new level of touring and virtual guides. 

Google Virtual Tours take you so close, it is almost like being there. 

National Geographic Maps allow you to explore around the globe.

Old Maps Online allows you to choose a specific location on the map or browse their list. It has an extensive array of road maps from past eras.

United States Geographical Survey/USGS also offers a wide array of historical maps: and topographical maps

Next week, we look at building a unique map for your fictional story world.

For advanced worldbuilding check out SBB Build A World Workbook in print and ebook.