Research: The Things You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know

10 people in 2 rooms but let's have a whole cabinet of china.  That makes sense.  (Not really.)
10 people in 2 rooms but let’s have a whole cabinet of china. That makes sense. (Not really.)

One of the reasons that doing thorough research on a project is essential is that there are always things that we don’t realize we need to research.  Recently, my family went to New Salem, a WPA era  reconstruction of a town in which Abraham Lincoln lived.   Docents in costume wandered among the furnished cabins and pointed out various interesting features to us.

One of the things that they discussed was china dinner ware.  Apparently, having the neighbors over for Sunday dinner was a Big Deal.  That meant that you had to have a full china service — plates, platters, bowls, etc.  Even the trapper’s wife had china.  The docents knew this would surprise us so they pointed it out.

What they didn’t point out, but we noticed on our own, was the number of gate-leg tables.   The vast majority of cabins had a table in plain sight but remember that the largest cabin was three whole rooms.  Three.  That included the two main rooms and the office because this was the physician’s cabin.  This meant that you had up to ten people, and possibly borders, living in a two room cabin.  Obviously, maximizing space was essential and one of the best ways to do this would be modular furniture.  When not in use, the gate on a gate-leg table can be folded in, collapsing half the table.  Ingenious in tight living quarters.

Research what you think you need to know and then do a bit more.  You might be surprised at the essential facts that fall into your lap.