I began my hobby of researching obscure things years ago. It started with writing letters to all the towns in England that had a chalk hill figure in it. Dozens of pink envelopes made their way to the most unlikely of places, and I estimate that 98% of them garnered results. I spoke to everyone and anyone, from English Heritage, to Leslie Grinsell… to the guy who lived next to the town hall where the postman plopped my letter not knowing what else to do with it!
I have been IN the silver vaults of Jesus College, Cambridge, while researching the history of wassailing. I’ve been behind the stacks in the Wilbour Library in the Brooklyn Museum with an Egyptological group I founded. Had a private tour in the Athenaeum at Brown University to see their copy of the Description de L’Egypte. (And BTW, they have the seriously deluxe edition that came with a table to house all 23 over-sized volumes!)
The list goes on and on, but I hope you get the point. Be fearless! You have nothing to lose by reaching out to people. Heck, I’ve written to the Queen! (And got a very nice letter back on paper stock that was as thick as cardboard.) No one you would want to contact is unapproachable. Sure, they might know more than you, but if you’re in the process of learning…trust me, they’re going to want to educate you.
While working on my mithraeum, I wrote to the woman who (literally) wrote the book on Coventina’s Well, Lindsay Allason-Jones. Wanna know what happened? She wrote back! I asked for any epithets associated with Coventina and so began a very pleasant conversation ending with exactly the information I wanted.
Tonight I wrote to the Ermine Street Guard, looking for help with what food legionaries ate at certain times of year. Figuring, it’s spring and I’m not in England, I need to know what’s currently growing and who better to ask than someone who cares deeply? I was on the phone this afternoon with the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale, requesting a book from cold storage.
If you know me from Facebook, then you know I’m forever scouring the Web for information regarding Mithras. I print out articles from Academia and then search the web for the supporting information. One of my many pet projects is grangerizing The Roman Cult of Mithras by Manfred Clauss, and I’m not afraid to email people when what I want can’t be found on the internet. I want you to be fearless, too. Put your pride in your pocket, stick your neck out and be prepared for amazing results.