Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Search?

If you just enter a word or phrase, it will search for any magazine page containing all of the terms, but not necessarily together. However, the underlying search engine provides a number of ways to do more advanced queries. Here's some advanced search query syntax hints:

What is this?

For over sixty years, people have collected colorful and historic glass and porcelain insulators. Yes, those small (and sometimes not-so-small) objects on poles that hold up power and communication wires. The National Insulator Association has an excellent booklet called "What Are Insulators?" for those wanting to learn more about our hobby.

For as long as folks have been collecting, they've been writing about it as well. However, up until I started tinkering with it a couple years back, as far as I know, nobody's ever tried to make all of the old publications searchable. There's a treasure trove of old information there, but because most of our publications were paper, searching for that information was difficult. The Insulator Publication Index is an effort to bring us into the "Google Age" in terms of being able to search hobby publications.

Why are the Page Numbers Screwy?

The page numbers are the page number in the digital file. For that use, the cover is page 1, the inside of the cover is page 2, etc. However, Crown Jewels starts page 1 as the first interior page. Some day I'll apply the correction in software, but since you get a little picture of the page you want and the CJOW PDFs aren't available (exception for a few recent years that Shaun has posted), you should be able to easily find the correct page. Generally it's just 2 less than the page result in the search.

Why Isn't XYZ Included?

Probably because we don't have digital copies of it to OCR and index, or just because we didn't think of it. Please see "How Do I Get a Publication Added?"

How Do I Get a Publication Added?

At the very least, I need a good quality scans. That's the most time-consuming and tedious part of the process. 150dpi would be adequate, and 300dpi would be preferred. If they're already OCR'd, or generated from the original source files with a text layer, that's even better. If you've got those, or are willing to do the work to acquire and scan the issues, then please contact me and we'll discuss details.

We'd prefer you be the copyright holder or can send us to the appropriate contact to get permission. While we don't technically need it (see the question about copyright), the hobby is far too small to go around making people angry. I'm still a very active collector, and my goal is not to get black-balled from the hobby.

Why Is Some of the Excerpt Text So Bad?

We're largely dependent upon optical character recognition to read old magazine scans. OCR has come a very long way, but it still makes a lot of mistakes, particularly on poor scans or with fonts that it just can't recognize. We don't have the time to go back and manually correct the text. However, if we get a newer, cleaner scan or a PDF with better OCR, we can regenerate the index and pick up the improved text.

Who Created/Maintains/Owns the Index?

The Insulator Publication Index is not affiliated with any insulator club, organization, or publication. It's an independent project by me, Nathan Holmes.

It's based on some code that Michael Petersen and I wrote for searching and indexing model railroading and railroad history publications, which was in turn based on a prototype I wrote to search... insulator magazines. I created it, I maintain it, and I fund it. I also earn nothing from it. I do it because it's useful for me, and for the general good of the hobby.

What About Copyright?

The decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust holds that digitizing printed material for creating a text search engine is fair use. What we're doing clearly falls under that precedent, since it's transformative, non-commercial, does not diminish the value of the works indexed, and only provides a small snippet of the content in the results. That said, I don't want to become a pariah in the hobby, so in general my approach is to get permission before things are added to the index.

To address the concerns of those who own the copyrights: It is impossible to get either the original PDFs, full size page images, or the full original text of the articles from the index. The first two are simply not on the servers to get. I don't store them there. The text is stored in an index table that would be exceedingly difficult to reverse engineer (because it's optimized for word search access) and even then, it's hidden in a backend service that's not exposed to the outside world. And no, just because you can't find a back issue on the open market, I can't send you the PDF. Please don't ask. I've created links to the legitimate sources for each publication were possible.

If all else fails, visit a local show or swap meet. That's how I built my back issue collection, plus insulator collectors are great fun to hang out with.