Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thesaurus Thursday: Third Birthday; I Need Your Help!

My "Thesaurus Thursdays" haven't happened quite as often as I anticipated when I began, but I had to capture the alliteration while I could. (The 13th and 30th anniversaries will both happen on Wednesdays, so we would have had some wait before us.)

It was three years ago today that I put aside my California gazetteer and dove headlong (back) into the world of Disneyland minutiae. As I think I've explained before, my interest in Disneyland history became manifest in late 1995 when I got Disneyland: The Nickel Tour and as many issues of The "E" Ticket as were then available. I created a rudimentary Disneyland Timeline, which I maintained until early 2000. I learned a lot from habitually obsessive visits to Disneyland and the people I met during my visits and online.

But I wasn't a collector. Sure, I'd pick up Park maps (one time a Guest Relations friend gave me a whole box of unused maps that was otherwise on its way to the trash) and gratefully accept photocopied spiels or employee manuals. My aunt and uncle, who both worked at Disneyland for decades, gave me an incredible stash of Cast Member materials (including a great many Disneyland Lines) in 1997. I went to one or two NFFC Show and Sales and of course saw a lot of paper that would have supported my historical Disneyland research, but I despaired at ever being able to assemble a complete collection.

I worked at Disneyland from November 18, 2000 to July 17, 2003. I requested to work in Guest Relations because I knew that to be the best On Stage position with a historical component. I was able to (mildly) contribute some information for the Holiday Time at Disneyland and the re-write of the Walk in Walt's Footsteps tours. I (tried to) sell my management on the idea of an intranet site with a historical focus. With Kevin Yee I worked up the idea for the Disneyland Compendium, an ultimate reference work on the Resort. In October 2002, at a private Club 33 event, I even stood before a group that included Marty Sklar, Tom Fitzgerald, and George Head (global head of SQS) to explain the idea, but nothing ever came of it.

I came to a point where it was a big time investment to learn each new fact or story. I left Disneyland, began working on my undergraduate thesis, and broadened my interests. I continued to visit Disneyland on occasion, but I didn't keep close track of what was going on. After going on a weeklong camping trip along the San Andreas Fault with Bob Gurr in October 2004, I began researching California places, leading me to a California gazetteer with over 11,000 places when I left it suspended in time three years ago.

A friend and I took an index language construction class in fall 2006. Unable to agree on a topic (a common problem), we fell back to an old Disneyland "land tree" I had tried to make. That finished thesaurus had a couple thousand terms in it, but it mainly had some hierarchy and cross-references, without additional information. On August 19, as I've said before, I came across the great vintage blogs I had only previously seen in passing, and knew that things were now aligned for me to pursue my Disneyland interest with renewed vigor: I had the basis of knowledge (from all my previous years reading everything I could), I had the skill set to create the thesaurus (from my library science schooling), and I had a phenomenal sea of historical information (now easily accessible) to draw from.

I toiled alone at first. I showed a barebones printed output to people for the first several months (the earliest thesaurus showing on record is October 25, 2007, at the Cafe Orleans). My first ever blog comment was on this Gorillas Don't Blog post showing super-rare photos of the Crane Company Bathroom of Tomorrow. But as I worked on the thesaurus, I realized my initial idea, to just have a hierarchy and cross-references, wasn't working. I'd forget how I came to relate two terms together, or how I had chosen one among several possible variants to use as the preferred term. So I started sourcing everything. And then I began including full text, all while carefully tracking what I had available to me, what I knew to exist somewhere, and what I had already gone through. Once I made that decision, the usefulness of the thesaurus to me expanded by leaps and bounds.

Wanting to be part of the conversation, driven in large part by the other blogs that updated every day, I began this blog on March 18, 2008. I shared some personal stories and talked about the thesaurus. In early 2009, while on a 76-day vacation, I decided to make a daily history of the Resort a part of my effort. On an eleven-day weekend from the DC snowstorms of February 2010, I threw the weather into the mix. My blog posting pace has slowed. Since beginning the blog, I wrote my masters thesis; got a job; moved the Nixon Presidential materials across the country; and relocated back to California (on top of the thesaurus work). And, now that I'm back in California, I have a new claim on my time: twice weekly trips to Disneyland itself.

I've received some amazing help from fellow bloggers during this time. Matterhorn1959 not only let me stay with him and scan whatever I wanted, he even let me borrow numerous items from his collection to scan at my leisure. (The problem is that one cannot scan his collection in just two days, particularly when he drags you to a swap meet and then to Casa Bonita...) VintageDisneylandTickets is the most prolific scanner I know and the Vacationlands and other publications he's posted are immeasurably helpful. I'm eagerly looking forward to the day when his comprehensive guide to tickets debuts! Westcot 2000 has provided me with a significant number of Entertainment Show Schedules from the early 1990s which have already helped with Park hours and will be very interesting in the future for the group information.

There's so much information out there that I haven't even scratched the surface at putting it into the thesaurus. The primarily photo blogs (such as Gorillas Don't Blog and Davelandblog) provide great visual details--I just need to hire somebody to work full-time writing up descriptions of the photos! Todd James Pierce, blogless but working on a book about early Disneyland and its imitators, always has extremely thorough responses to my obscure questions about Walt-era Disneyland.

In short, I'm extremely grateful for the help I've received from the fan community. I know it seems I've been talking about the thesaurus forever without much to show for it, but Kevin and I are hoping to change that soon. We are, however, in immediate need of help from the fan community. To finish assembling Park hours for all operational dates in Disneyland history, I need hours for 1,741 more days, or 8.7% of the days since Disneyland opened. These are mostly concentrated in the 1987-1994 timeframe. The complete list can be found by clicking here. Please pass along to anybody you know who may have this information! I suspect it can be found in newspapers from that time (though not, unfortunately, in the easily searchable full-text online archives), from gate handouts, and from Cast Member materials (such as Entertainment Show Schedules). I will revise the list as I am able to cross hours off of this list.

I'll try to have more regular posts. Now that I have better access to my accumulated paper, there might be more posts waxing nostalgic of my hundreds of late 1990s visits, but I guess better that than nothing. Also, if you're a regular reader who wants to see an in-person demonstration of the thesaurus, I plan to attend the D23 event in September and I'm sure we could arrange something. Again, thanks to all for their interest and help. As Walt would say (if he knew of the word I made up), "We're just getting started--the thesaurusing goes on next year."


Matterhorn1959 said...

I just wanted to make sure you saw all the highlights of Denver.

Christopher said...

I have over 200 of your missing hours from my collection of ephemera (mostly late 80's Disneyland Today guides) that I'd love to share with you. I have been following your blog for some time and am impressed and amazed at your dedication (or stupidity?) on this project. Thank You for your effort.

How can I best help get this info to you?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this would be of any use to you. You might be able to check it out now that you are back in CA.

This is from a friend's parents.


Major Pepperidge said...

Shoot, I don't have much of the post-1970 Disneyland stuff unfortunately. You've taken on a task that seems almost impossible... but I will help if I can!! I wonder what Tim from Vintage Disneyland Tickets has - seems that his blog has a lot of stuff from the 80's.

Jason Schultz said...

Christopher - Awesome! For long-term usefulness, I'd appreciate 300 dpi scans of the handouts (as I'm sure they have other information that will be useful down the line). Would that work for you? They can be sent to the e-mail address in my profile (or if that doesn't work for you, just send me an e-mail and we'll figure something out). Thanks in advance!

Anonymous - Thanks for the link. I believe I'd seen the "Disneyland Employees and Promotional Materials Collection" finding aid before. Based on the folder title list, I'm not too sure it would help much for the Park hours. It might be interesting to see which Backstage Disneyland and Inside Disneyland issues they have, though!

Major - Look up incrementalism. ;) And Tim's already been put on notice!