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Document Digitization and its importance in Research today

When I first started writing research papers for my undergrad degree I did one on the history of tobacco and the barns they used in Henry County, Tennessee. I mostly used what few books or articles I could get at my University; microfilm and microfiche on the topic available to be me at the library in Paris, Tennessee; oral histories with the farmers; and foot-work on the old farms. I took photographs of the barns under the direction of the farmers to flesh out my paper with real illustrations. The goal was to get a full arc of the importance of tobacco in the society and culture of the farmers living and working near Paris, in Henry County, Tennessee.

It was a wonderful introduction to how life on the farm really dictates a culture, its values, and social mores. Material Culture at it's best because I was using real barns, real farm life, and real people.

I didn't have access to the things that have been digitized these days. You work with what you have access to, right? I was writing up the Research section of this website when my aphasia struck. All access to finding my words was gone. I used and to help me find what my brain couldn't. When you have physical issues from chronic diseases you learn to use what's available to you. But that will be something to talk about on a different day.

What I became excited about it that my searches led me to an article digitized and available in JSTORE (The Unversity of Chicago Press Journals). (2) The title was "The Tobacco Pools of Kentucky and Tennessee" originally published in Journal of Political Economy, Jan., 1910, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan., 1910), pp. 34-49.(3) The information is also widely available now in places like and any other number of other sites doing a general search online in your browser of choice. At my fingertips now I have digital information about the history of the production of tobacco in my family's home counties of Henry and Weakley Counties in Tennessee and Graves County, Kentucky. The additional background layers it could had added to my research are astounding to me.

If you are a researcher, the digitization of documents onto the internet is a like a diamond mine. The secondary and primary sources are there, but you have to look for and vette them. You'll come across the easy answers like Wikipedia, but you have to dig deeper. It's a great place to start, but don't stop at the first few results you get.


(1) The photo accompanying this article is my great grandfather, Lynn Jimerson, and my grandfather, Thomas Jimerson, from circa 1935. My grandfather is in his late teens. They are use hand plows and mules in a tobacco field.



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