or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week ¦ 3/2/14

   March 8th, 2014

disney family crestI think this takes the cake for "most ridiculous-sounding reference question that actually ended up having a legitimate answer."

I feel slightly bad making fun of a reference question, but I didn't know what to think when a patron walked up and asked me,

Can you find me the phone number for the Disney World Historical Society?

The rest of story, she continued, was that she had gone there 20 years ago with her grandson. One of the places they stopped was in the historical society in the park, who would research your genealogy and print and frame your family crest. She had done this, but then gave it to a family member who subsequently moved to the Gulf Coast and then their home destroyed in a hurricane and lost everything. So now the patron wanted to contact Disney World Historical Society to get another copy of the family crest.

She knew it had been at the Epcot Center, so I started looking. When using keywords like "disney world" and "historical society," I found http://www.thehistorycenter.org and lots of other Orlando-area historical societies (and of course lots of sites on the history of Disney), but nothing like what she had described. Since I wasn't making any progress, she asked I just give her the main Disney phone number so she could call and ask them. I did, and she went back to her computer.

I kept working on it though, trying different combinations of search terms (disney historical society, orlando history), and finally got lucky with "epcot genealogy" - but only kind of.

I found a page which gave me the name "Heritage House" and described it as:

Across Liberty Square from Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, just to the right of Hall of Presidents (when looking at it) a shingle swings above the entryway to the Heritage House, Historical Research Center. How much of a "research center" it is, is up for debate, as most of its space these days is taken up with Jack Skellington gear rather than the American history souvenirs that it used to carry. However, tucked away in a back corner you will still find a desk dedicated to looking up your "family crest."

The family crest part is exactly what the patron described, so that was great. But now the bad news: the page also said the Heritage House had closed on January 4, 2014. Missed it by weeks!

I kept searching for Magic Kingdom Heritage House, and eventually found more pages describing it, and also verifying it had closed. The I found a Disney news page that linked to a blog post with the promising title, Heritage House Reopens as MyMagic+ Service Center.

Some research into the MyMagic+ program makes it look like it's some kind of park experience package, of which the Heritage House services are just a small part.

The patron was still in the library, and seemed happy I found more. Although she had already moved on to a different project by this point, and so just said thank you and when back to her work.

I guess she wasn't as impressed with the search as I was, because she knew from the very beginning that this place existed. I don't mind saying I found this trail of breadcrumbs pretty remarkable, because I had little hope of finding anything at all based on the initial question.

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