Our new 2010 annual report is available online! Click here to catch up on the past year at AAS with over 70 photographs of people, acquisitions, and some of the lively programs that were held here.
Our front and back cover photographs offer views seldom seen by visitors to Antiquarian Hall, since both were taken from the balcony overlooking the reading room. On the front cover, National Endowment for Humanities Chair Jim Leach and historian Jill Lepore take questions after their talk on incivility in American political discourse. Incivility – indeed, incendiary language and symbolism – continue to be a prominent national concern and we were happy to be the only Massachusetts venue for Jim Leach’s 50-state speaking tour.
The serene photograph on the back shows an American Historical Print Collectors’ Society Fellow doing research. I was amused when Lauren Hewes, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, and Gigi Barnhill, director of our Center for Historic American Visual Culture, both identified the print as Alphonse Léon Noel’s “The Power of Music” (1848), a hand-colored lithograph after a painting by William Sidney Mount. An impressive ID from the second floor, and yes, they both know the Society’s collections well.
Enjoy the entertaining descriptions of recent acquisitions written by the curators, from instructions for playing the banjo, “an instrument which has ever been considered a mystery unknowable,” to a handbill describing how betting against Abraham Lincoln’s election led one man to walk from Boston to Washington, and keep walking. A separate post is promised on one of the more colorful collection items pictured: an 1871 issue of the National Police Gazette with its sensational coverage of crimes of passion.
Our free public programs ran the gamut last year from a brief history of thrift in America to a spellbinding series on John Brown, a hair-raising tale of witch hunts in Hartford, and a look at the causes of the Civil War.
Each week, researchers request an astonishing variety of items. On one summer afternoon when the circus posters came out, I marveled again at the sheer variety of our collections. These large-scale posters conjure up all the rumbling excitement of the circus rolling into town in the 1850s (see photo on p. 12). Leaf through AAS’s annual report to see other collection items and read about what it’s like to do research in Antiquarian Hall. And if you’re in the area, come to a public lecture or sign up for a seminar. There’s a lot going on at the American Antiquarian Society – please join us!