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EBSCO features databases on topics such as American History with abstracts from historical documents, a database of historical images, abstracts, and links to Life and Time Magazine archives.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

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