This November AAS experimented with a new year-end fundraiser. We called it “Give a Gift to AAS Give a Gift to the World.” Thirty objects were selected from across the entire spectrum of the Society’s collections with several criteria in mind. Items had to be significant sources of research, fragile or rare, and under about 200 pages in length. Also, the pieces could not be part of a digital resource. In fact, the whole point of the fundraiser was to secure funding to digitize and make available all thirty pieces, for free, via the Society’s website.
This turned out to be one of our most successful initiatives to date. No sooner had we put the catalog of our choices online when the support started pouring in. At about 10:30 on a Monday, we sent an email announcement out to members and friends who had participated in previous Adopt-a-Book efforts and Adopt-a-Gift-book from last December. By noon, one third of the material had been selected for funding! By Tuesday, half was gone. We had several instances when multiple emails poured in for a single object. It was great!
We had originally planned for the fundraiser to run through the end of 2013. But, of the thirty original pieces, only two remain. This blog post is a plea for the final support needed to call this effort a complete success. What is left, you ask? Click on over to the catalog website and see in more detail, but described here briefly, the two lone, abandoned, unloved, remaining objects are:
An 1828 Valentine writer, published in New York. For a donation of $75 AAS will photograph all twenty-eight pages of this slim volume, which was originally used by lovelorn correspondents with writer’s block. Popular and clever turns of phrase, snippets of poetry and suggestions for humorous quips were all published here to help those making valentines at home, or for appending to published valentines to come up with just the right way of saying “I love you.”
For the less sentimental, the final historic object waiting for digitization is a homemade scrapbook from the Society’s manuscript collection. Made by Nathaniel Paine in the 1880s, the unfortunately titled “Freaks of Nature” includes an abundance of ephemera related to circuses, theater, and side show entertainment. Lots of the pieces glued to its pages are not known in any other copies, are annotated by Paine with the location and date of the original event, and document the variety of popular entertainment consumed in the United States in this era. For $100, the entire volume will be photographed and unlocked for all to consider, both in Worcester and well beyond.
So here’s the pitch—and this is coming from the curator who as a kid was the bespectacled, skinny child chosen last for kickball, baseball, and just about any other team sport. I feel for these two last historic objects, leaning, if you will, against the gym wall. They remind us of the elephant and dolly stranded on the Island of Misfit Toys in the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer television special playing all over cable this month. Can you help AAS with your gift to make them part of the great sweep of bytes, jpegs, and TIFFs that swirl through the ever-growing digital realm? We thank you, as always, for your amazing support of the Society and our activities. Happy New Year!