Dear Constant Reader,
Happy Friday! If you are celebrating Independence Day this weekend, I hope you do it safely. Here’s your tip!
Research your research.
Jo Weldon recently talked about burlesque history and some of its problems, which inspired this,
When researching anything but let’s focus on burlesque history, don’t take anything at face value. Even primary sources, like newspaper articles and autobiographies are full of exaggerations and grandiose statements. Publications wanted to sell copies and performers wanted fame (or notoriety). A good story, particularly a salacious one, was preferable to reality. And some of these have been handed down as fact by publications about burlesque. It’s hard to blame them — I’ve heard stories directly from legends that change over time or don’t match up with documented facts. (If every
So what can you do? Rather than just citing a source, check its sources. The easiest way is to follow the footnote trail. If there are no footnotes or other citations, dig a little deeper. Check contemporary sources. Accurate dates are so important! You may find yourself going down an Internet rabbit hole or buried in a library research collection to discover the actual facts and probably some things you didn’t expect (I’ve spent many fascinating hours doing this!). If you still can’t corroborate, it doesn’t mean don’t use the information, but make sure you note that the source may not be reliable.
Just do due diligence before presenting burlesque myth as burlesque fact.