Pinterest and the Hunt for Research Information

Pinterest, research, Google limitations, Using Pinterest for Research, pins, photos, legality, World War I, Ezbekiah Gardens, Oswald Chambers

US Navy photo

I’ve discovered Pinterest as a new tool in my research toolbox.

Like many, I didn’t pay it much mind when it first appeared on the social media scene. I had more pressing matters to seek out using my trusty pal Google.

But when a friend posted the covers of her books on a Pinterest page, I decided I could do at least that much.

A whole new world opened up.

It started simply

I began easy: posting photos of my co-writers for all my novella collections. Then the books themselves. Then, well, why not? Photos related to my novellas and the novel Bridging Two Hearts.

(A Navy photo of SEALs in basic training camp is my most shared pin on Pinterest).

I documented what happened one night when I went looking for the photo link for An Inconvenient Gamble. I found a photo of my great-grandmother–one I’d been seeking for 20 years!

(The photo wasn’t on Pinterest, but on a website I was linking to my Pinterest board.)

At that time, I used my own outside resources to pin on my board–which many people do. I even took a tutorial on how to put together interesting pins.

But I didn’t have time to make pins, I needed to be writing and researching my books.

Except it becomes addicting

Once I learned about the search feature in Pinterest, my research abilities jumped. Click to Tweet

For example, I went looking for Ezbekieh Gardens.

I tried Google, but didn’t turn up a whole lot–which surprised me. In 1916, the period I’m studying, the opera house was across the street and Shepheard’s Hotel was a few blocks north. How could it be so hard to find?

I’d been idly hunting for photos of World War I era Cairo to get a sense of the clothing and the lifestyle my characters might have had. I looked at Shepheard’s Hotel where the glitterati stayed, saw lots of fun photos of the pyramids with different types of visitors (and camels), and even caught glimpses of chador-clad Muslim women from the turn of the last century. The photos were fascinating and you can see my Pinterest board on Egyptian Scenes here.

I typed in Ezbekieh Gardens one night and to my surprise, photos turned up.

Pinterest, research, Google limitations, Using Pinterest for Research, pins, photos, legality, World War I, Ezbekiah Gardens, Oswald Chambers

Ezbekiah Gardens; New York Public Library Digital Collection

Only two others have turned up (if you hunt now, you see photos I’ve posted), but in my searching, I met others looking for photos of old Cairo. (Thank you, Green9999) and because of my time frame, all those Amelia Peabody fans have provided lots of pertinent shots.

I’ve also discovered maps and references to things I hadn’t anticipated. Who knew the tram went past Ezbekieh Gardens until I hunted for the Cairo Opera House?

Here’s the key: Scouring Pinterest to find pertinent information which may not have anything to do with photos.

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For example, today I needed to learn something about Ismailia. My Baedekker’s Guide to Egypt, 1914, notes:

“Hurried travelers may omit Ismailia the attractions of which are not very great. The town is on the north side of Lake Timsah and reportedly has lovely beaches.”

It didn’t list any hotels nor names of restaurants. These are not crucial to my story, but being able to say where they stayed gives verisimilitude to my tale. On a whim, I typed the town’s name into Pinterest.

Lots of photos turned up.

I posted them on my Egyptian Scene and World War I Egypt boards. Now I have a good idea of the type of houses and the fauna that could be found in that town.

Pinterest, research, Google limitations, Using Pinterest for Research, pins, photos, legality, World War I, Ezbekiah Gardens, Oswald Chambers

The freshwater canals at Ismailia

Pinterest, of course, can be problematic for sharing the photos on my blogsite–all of these pages were taken from Wikipedia Commons, for example.

But since I’m leaving other people’s photos on my boards merely for research, I think I’m okay with copyright laws.

If you’re stymied in something you’re seeking, or need fuller ideas about a subject, why not try Pinterest?

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It worked for me!

All my Pinterest boards can be found here.


Leave a comment


  1. juliesjohnson

     /  February 18, 2014

    Very good, Michelle. Who’d have thought to look on Pinterest for research material? I’m amazed at your collection of pins. I’ll go back when I have time and check them out!

  2. thanks Michelle! great post with helpful examples!


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