Category Archives: Curator’s Corner

Learn from the best! AAS curators discuss their collections

Ghosts in the Parlor?

As readers of Past is Present are already aware, the Society’s Graphic Arts department is currently immersed in cataloging illustrations in our collection of gift books for the Prints in the Parlor project. Because the season of ghosts and goblins is now upon us as we near the end of October, we have been ...

It’s National Punctuation Day!

Friday, September 24th, is National Punctuation Day.  Here at the American Antiquarian Society, we take our commas and semi-colons quite seriously.  We hold in our collection numerous grammar manuals, essays, school books, and pamphlets on the correct use of the English language, dating from the 1780s right on up to 1875.  However, being the curator ...

Hidden Treasure of Hawaiiana

The vast collections at an institution like the American Antiquarian Society have been built and sorted over decades and, somewhat to the surprise of many scholars and readers, continue to be processed today.  Bulk collections are constantly being inventoried and rehoused to address conservation concerns and, when the Society has the resources and staff available, ...

The Novel Reader

This image above of a woman reading in a busy interior, surrounded by household chaos appears in two gift books in the Society’s large collection, one from 1849 and one from 1853. The main figure sits completely engrossed in her book while the baby cries and a cat and a dog steal food. ...

“Listen my children and you will hear …”

RevereMassacre

This past April, the state of Massachusetts marked the 235th anniversary of the famous ride of Paul Revere and the start of the American Revolution at the Battles of Lexington & Concord. As you might expect, AAS takes Patriot’s Day (April 19th) seriously. Like most Massachusetts residents, we have the day off ...

The Acquisitions Table: Quagga and Rhinoceros

4P8V6651

The quagga illustrated in this children's book caught my eye because, possibly like you, dear reader, I had never heard of this animal.  And so I went to Wikipedia where I read an interesting article about the quagga's relationship to the plains zebra and about efforts to breed them back into existence.  Curator of Children's ...

The Civil War, Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

Currier & Ives lithograph of the capture of Atlanta, Georgia by Sherman

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. Many institutions are planning exhibitions, activities, and publications around the events which tore the United States apart between 1861 and 1865. Some organizations have already contacted AAS regarding the possibility of borrowing or reproducing material from our collections. ...

A.L.A.: Librarians en masse

lookoutlibrarians

The ongoing processing of the Society’s Group Photograph collection has recently turned up a small cache of nineteenth-century photographs of librarians.  Oh sure, there are also significant photographs of mill workers, school children, and important businessmen, but around here we get pretty jazzed up over images of librarians.  On the whole, librarians tend to be ...

It isn’t perfect, but . . . .

boysgroup

Recently, the American Antiquarian Society digitized a new finding aid to help scholars access the Society’s Group Photograph collection (http://www.americanantiquarian.org/groupphotos.htm). Usually, we like these finding aides to be as complete as possible, with detailed entries and scans -- you know, the whole works, like we have done for our collections of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes. ...

“What’s with the round photograph?”

Roundphoto

This was the question I got recently as I was sorting through some photographic material at my desk and was putting carefully aside a small, round photograph of two children. As you might already know, the American Antiquarian Society has important holdings of early photography, including daguerreotypes from the 1830s and cabinet photographs of performers ...

Chopin in America

chopmusic

March 1, 2010 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the pianist composer Frédéric François Chopin (1810-1849).  Chopin was born near Warsaw and lived much of his short life in France so you may be asking yourself why on earth there is a post about him on the blog of the American Antiquarian Society. ...

In the Bleak Mid-winter

J.Henry Whittemore, composer, Footprints on the Snow, Detroit: Calvert & Co. Lithographers, 1866. The first stanza of this song records a young man stepping out after a snowfall and finding a woman’s footprints in the snow outside his door. Naturally, true love ensues! He sings: “I gazed with admiration on the trim and tiny marks, and felt within my bosom kindling love’s bewitching sparks,”

In the cold of a New England winter, it is easy to feel sorry for one’s self as the grey clouds of January barely dissipate in the low light of February’s early gloam. Some believe that the best way to tackle winter is to embrace it, and so the Graphic Arts department offers for your ...

My Hairy Valentine!

valentine_2

In 2010, the Graphic Arts department will be evaluating and re-housing its collection of nineteenth-century valentines.  We have over 3,000 of these lacy, be-flowered paper objects and they are being sorted to provide better access for readers.  Due to the high number and complexity of each object (some have moving parts, accompanying envelopes, etc., while ...