Do's And Don'ts

Even experienced investigators can occasionally run into difficulties. To avoid problems with your investigations, always follow these basic "DOs" and "DON'Ts" of historical detection.


Keep detailed records of your investigations. Note dates, locations, sources and other facts you might need later on.

Inform the authorities when you find cultural artifacts on public lands.

Be prepared for the hazards of fieldwork. Research the dangers before you go.

Be alert to potential hazards around you.

Use caution with chemicals used for testing samples, preserving materials and similar activities.

Know the relevant laws. If you have any doubts about the legality of your investigations: stop immediately.

Ask permission before going onto private property for any reason, even if you only want a closer look at an old house.

Handle historical records with care. There will be other investigators after you.

Observe the rules where you are working, whether a genealogy library, county courthouse, or national park.

Ask for help and advice from the professionals and organizations that specialize in the subject you are researching.



Move or handle any Native American artifacts found on public land.

Get so involved with the research that you fail to see trouble coming. Be aware of your surroundings and the potential hazards.

Take samples of material unless you are entirely willing to risk damage to the source.

Go about digging up artifacts. You may destroy important archeological evidence.

Do anything irreversible. Before dismantling your house to search for clues, be sure you can put it all back together.

Ignore rules and regulations. They exist for your protection.

Plagiarize. Never publish 'borrowed' material, even on a personal Web site, without proper attribution.

Abuse the generosity of institutions and experts. The researchers that follow you will suffer the consequences.

Hoard resources. Return books and other materials when due. Other researchers are waiting.

Be selfish. Share what you learn with other investigators. Offer assistance to people with less experience.