One of the things I like to do is watch a movie that features the life and times of my topic. I recommend you do the same.
Look for one movie or documentary on your topic, if any, and take time to watch it. It doesn’t have to be a nonfiction movie. For example, it could be Red Tails if you’re studying the Tuskegee Airmen. Red Tails isn’t necessarily historically accurate but it gives you a feel for the emotion and sensory details of the era.
For my project, since I’ll be writing a nonfiction picture book about Abraham Lincoln, I watched the movie, Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis. Even though it didn’t cover the exact focus I plan to write about, it was an awesome way to really get a feel for the era my topic lived in and for the man himself.
When I wrote a picture book about John Adams, I watched the John Adams mini-series based on David McCullough’s book. When I wrote my nonfiction book, Frederick Douglass for Kids, I watched The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns.
Watching a movie or documentary on your topic isn’t a way to gather accurate research, necessarily. However, it’s a great way to hear the sounds of your topic’s era, see the costumes and technology, and experience in part some of the emotions people may have felt at that time. It just helps ROUND OUT the research you’re doing and can help bring your topic more to life out of the dusty pages of history.