I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions. I am, however, one for setting hyper-ambitious professional goals. So why not combine the two this year? Of course, my main goal is to find out what happened to Railroad Jack. Where, oh where is that little dog? But since that is a pretty giant, and potentially unobtainable goal, I’ve broken it down into some smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Get access to the Albany-area newspapers which haven’t been digitized
This is one is something I’ll tackle in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got a great local library system and they’ll help me start Interlibrary Loaning the microfilm reels I need (side resolution: stock up on ibuprofen for the inevitable microfilm reader-induced headaches)
- Start tracking down descendants of important people in this story
This one is a longshot, but who knows what materials families have saved over the generations. Anyone I talk to will be a minimum of three generations removed from the folks in my story, but it’s worth a try. I’m most interested in finding the family of Matt McCarthy. Through obituaries, I’ve tracked down names. Does anyone have any tips for reaching out to family members?
- Answer the Union Station questions
There seems to be limited information on what happened in the transition from the Union Station Jack knew and was displayed in after his death in 1893 to the one built just a few years after. Would Jack have been moved to the new station? Or was he already somewhere else at that point?
- Plan some regional trips
Working full-time and having a limited budget cuts into my ability to make research trips. But, I do fortunately live in an area in which Jack spent a lot of time. Could there be Jack-related information lingering in Southern Tier/Western NY archives (I found Jack references in a police scrapbook of all places in my museum. So it’s totally possible!). Could I visit any of the places he visited and retrace his steps?
- Keep Trying to Get Media Coverage
I still feel like the best bet left for uncovering anything is getting the story out there in the Albany-area press (what might people have in their attics?). So far, my attempts to contact reporters about this have been ignored. Does anyone have any press contacts you think would be interested in covering this project?
In addition to these, I have some general writing goals: get a proposal together for publishers/agents; figure out the narrative arc of the story; extensively read other non-fiction, particular books with non-traditional structures/approaches (I’ll gladly take recommendations).
Here’s to a productive 2018. Who else has some research resolutions?