Blogs

You can find out a lot about how your house might have looked when it was new by leafing through magazines from the period your house was built.

"Shelter" magazines (magazines that focus on interior decorating, gardening, architecture, and related subjects) from the period your house was built are great sources for information, especially if you are willing to browse through them carefully.  Here are a few to try:

  • Better Homes and Gardens (July 1925-present) 
  • House & Garden (1904-2007)  Like a lot of magazines, House & Garden has changed its name over time. Issues from 1904-1993 were called House & Garden; from 1996-1997 it was called Conde Nast House & Garden, and then from 1998-2007 the name was House & Garden again.
  • House Beautiful (1897-present) 
  • Sunset (1898-present)  Sunset was one of the first magazines to celebrate ranch-style houses, and their annual "Idea House" building project has generated dozens of creative and dynamic house designs over the years.

You might also be interested in magazines about historically accurate renovation.  The best-known of these is Old-House Journal (1975-present), and it can be a treasure-trove!  The early issues focus more on 19th century houses, but as the magazine has matured it has come to include renovation and do-it-yourself advice and articles on the history of houses from the early 1800s through the 1960s. 

Some other house renovation and old house style magazines you might find useful are: Old-House Interiors, American Bungalow, and Atomic Ranch.

All of these magazines are available for you to browse at Central Library, on the second floor, in the Periodicals Room.  Ask the friendly librarians in the Periodicals Room to help you locate the specific issues or date range you need!

Questions? Ask the Librarian!

For centuries, Europeans have explored places unfamiliar to them.  The big push to explore happened from the 1400s to the 1600s and is known as the Age of Discovery or the Age or Exploration.  Here are some sites that will help you learn more about individual explorers, the places they went, and the tools they used to get there.

Santa Maria model

For a broad website on exploration that includes biographies of explorers, information and illustrations ships and navigation tools, plus an interactive map showing voyages of the most ancient explorers through the 1920s, check out Exploration Through the Ages from the Mariners Museum.  Here's another link to exploration info at the museum.

Look at the companion website for the PBS program Conquistadors for more about explorers Cortes, Orellana, Pizarro and Cabeza de Vaca.  See also All the World is Human:  The Conquistadors for the companion videos from the BBC.  Be aware that this site takes a bit of time to load.
 
Learn about longitude, latitude, and navigation tools and see a film on how to use an octant and try it yourself at Marine Navigation in the Age of Exploration.
 
Find out how hard life was for a sailor and explorer in this infographic:  Age of Exploration:  Life on the Open Seas
 
Now you're ready to conquer the world!

book and e-book
You’ve written something, and it’s time to publish! Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be - expensive, sneered at as a "vanity" project, and often ignored by booksellers. Now you can bring your writing into physical form relatively cheaply, and it can be as glossy and perfect-bound as you like, or if you prefer, hand-stitched and hand-painted. With print-on-demand (POD) services,  you can have one beautiful book printed for a family member or friend, or you can print many to distribute to bookstores. It can also be an e-book - many authors are finding great success with self-published e-books. With a self-published ebook, you can have the satisfaction of getting your book into the hands of readers quickly, via many platforms, and even for free or very low cost. The avenues to self-publishing are diverse!

Because there are so many options, you’ll want to inform yourself as best you can. Things to consider include:

  • Do you want your book to have an ISBN?
  • How do you plan to market your book?
  • Who is the intended audience for your book?

Check out our booklist featuring books about self-publishing. Many of the books on this list discuss these questions, among others, that you should consider as you plan your self-publishing project.

What follows are just a few of the many resources available for you to choose from as you consider your self-publishing process.

If you'd like to be able to hold a print book in your hands, print-on-demand (POD) publishing might be for you. Some popular POD printers include CreateSpace (owned by Amazon.com), Ingram Spark (owned by Ingram, a major book distributor) Lulu, and Blurb. Many POD publishers offer ebook publishing, too. 

If you choose to self-publish an ebook, you might consider using the popular self-publishing services Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)Draft2Digital, or Smashwords

The services listed above are only a few of many available, and the landscape of these services and what they offer changes frequently. These services, whether for print or ebook publishing, vary in terms of rights that you reserve as an author, costs you may incur, the commission they keep from the sales of your books, the support they provide with formatting and design, among other things. Read up on the differences! Please let us know if we can help. 

There some local resources that might be relevant to your project, too: 

  • Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a membership organization with resources and workshops related to printing and book-making. They also have certificate programs in creative nonfiction/fiction, poetry, and comics/graphic novels.

If you’re interested in making contact with a local publisher or association, you might find the following organizations useful:

For advice and news, the Alliance of Independent Authors has an advice blog about self-publishing.

Are you interested in having your e-book available in the library? OverDrive is a service that many libraries, including Multnomah County Library, use to provide access to e-books. Like publishing houses, self-publishers must fill out a Publisher Application found on OverDrive's Content Reserve site. OverDrive has also created a helpful Intro to Digital Distribution pdf for new authors and publishers. OverDrive's public contact info can be found here. If your e-book is added into the OverDrive catalog, you can then suggest that we purchase it.

MCL also selects ebooks written by local authors during our annual Library Writers Project

In your creative work, you may find yourself wondering about copyright law and how it applies to you. We have quite a few books that provide guidance on these subjects - two of these are The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know by Stephen Fishman and Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media, by Lee Wilson. You’ll find quite a few others under the subject heading Copyright -- United States -- Popular Works.

Have fun, enjoy the process, and feel empowered to get your work into print! As always, please let us know if we can help direct you to books or other resources to help with your project. 

 

 

You can find lots of detailed information about your neighborhood, your street, or even your house from maps. The maps below have historical information about property ownership, building footprints, old out-of-date addresses, and more! 

Digital Sanborn Maps. Library resource containing digital versions of Sanborn fire insurance maps for Oregon for various dates. Compiled for insurance companies, these maps show the location and composition of buildings. They also note potential fire hazards like gas stations, lumber mills, movie theaters, bakeries, and show the location of steep slopes, water mains, and other infrastructure details. Maps for Gresham, Troutdale, and Portland are in this collection, as are maps for the former cities of St. Johns, Albina, and Multnomah (now all part of the city of Portland). Be ready to enter your library card number and PIN; this is a special library resource! (If this collection doesn't have what you need, take a look at the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability's list of Sanborn Insurance Maps Covering Portland, Oregon that are owned by other libraries and archives.)

The Portland Block Book. Two-volume book of maps of the city of Portland, circa 1907, showing ownership of residential property and other real estate information. You'll need to know a property's legal description -- the name of the addition/subdivision and the block and lot numbers to use this book. You can usually get the legal description of a property from PortlandMaps (see below). Visit Central Library to use this two-volume set in person.

Metsker's Atlas of Multnomah County, Oregon. Atlases showing the names of property owners (for larger lots), lot lines and street names. The library has Metsker atlases from 1927, 1936, and 1944, as well as atlases for Clackamas, Washington and most other Oregon counties. Visit Central Library to use the Metsker atlases in person.

PortlandMaps. Maps and current property information for Portland and much of the surrounding area, including maps, tax information, crime data, school and park information and more.

 

  Questions? Ask the Librarian.

Many new amateur house historians find determining their home's historic period and style to be a challenging task. You can usually find the date your house was built by looking it up in PortlandMaps or contacting your local County Assessor's office, but figuring out what it might have looked like when it was new can be difficult!

Once you've looked through a few guides to historic periods in architecture, try looking at some of these resources to get a more detailed idea of how houses were designed and decorated in the past:

  • Mail order house plans and design catalogs [blog post].  List of websites featuring scans of late 19th and early-mid 20th century house plan catalogs.  People used these catalogs to shop for a new house -- they either bought the plans and had a builder construct them, or bought a house kit, which came with plans and all the materials (neat, right?). 
  • Floor plan books [reading list]. Reprints of house plan catalogs, simliar to the ones featured in the blog post above, which you can check out from the library!
  • Using old magazines to identify house styles [blog post].  Guide to researching house-style and architectural history information in the library's collection of old (and new!) magazines.
  • Color scheme & design books [reading list]. Books focusing on the history of paint colors and color design of the late 19th and early-mid 20th century.

A teacher from a childcare center recently contacted me for some library resources. She was looking for few board books, a picture book or two, a music CD, and a few rhymes with interesting content for infants and toddlers, all related to the same theme. My immediate thought was Multnomah County Library’s collection of Storytime It’s in the Bags. We have 20 themed bags for toddlers (ages 18 mths—3 yrs) and another 21 bags for preschool-aged children (3—6 years). Each bag centers on a theme and contains five books, a small toy, game, puzzle or music CD related to the theme, and an activity sheet. The sheet has a couple of rhymes or games to play with children to extend the theme, as well as some tips for sharing books with children to effectively help them gain the skills they need to become successful readers. These bags are perfect for busy childcare teachers, family childcare providers and parents who want to share thematic materials with the little ones in their care. The Storytime bags are a popular resource and they are available on the shelves in some MCL locations. The easiest way to get your hands on these bags is to look through the toddler and preschool bag lists and place holds on the ones you would like to share with the kids in your life.

MCL also has bags for infants and their caregivers (0-6 months, 6-12 months and 12-18 months). Another new set of resources are the Bolsitas de Cuentos, which are themed bags with books in Spanish and bilingual English/Spanish. The Cuentos bags contain books appropriate for children 0-5 years old, and are fun for Spanish-speaking families and families who are working at being bilingual.

You may have heard a rumor that your house was "bought by mail order."  What does that mean, you might wonder?  Or you might have noticed that there are twins of your house dotted around your neighborhood.  Were all those twins built by the same company? 

It might be that your house was built from a mail-order plan -- or it could be that your house was bought fom a mail-order company that supplied the plans and a complete set of building materials cut to size and ready to assemble.   Mail-order houses like these are the ancestors of modern manufactured homes, but they were built on-site by carpenters using traditional techniques, just like architect-designed houses of the same historical period. 

The websites below showcase archives of house plans from mail-order home companies. They show exterior views of each house (some in color), floor plans, and prices.  Since most mail-order house companies also sold a multitude of cabinetry, fancy trim, plumbing and lighting fixtures, and furniture, you can sometimes get an idea for popular interior design of the period as well.

I should also remind you, the library has books with old mail-order floor plans in them too!  Check out the great list below for some examples. 

Questions? Ask the Librarian!  We'd be glad to offer you some personalized help with your research project.

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