Sarah Harker, AAS media outreach intern this summer, graduated from Clark University last May, where she studied Film and Communications & Culture. She is currently an independent filmmaker while continuing her education at Clark, pursuing her master’s degree in Professional Communications.
Having grown up in northeastern Massachusetts and living the past four years in Worcester as a student, I have always been surrounded with a respect and reverence for the history of our nation’s beginnings. The evidence is preserved and concentrated within the spread of New England and has always been accessible through learning and living in this part of the country.
My summer work at the Society as the media outreach intern has given me an opportunity to see how deep this accessibility extends. Coming from a video production background instead of a historical one, my time here has given me a deep respect and admiration for the passion and dedication of the people that work here and their commitment to preservation and education. I have been able to view the Society with a certain amount of detachment: my job is primarily to go through the backlog of filmed public programs and podcasts and edit them to upload to the AAS YouTube channel. Through this process I have been able to see prominent historians, authors, and Society members who have made major contributions to our knowledge of American history. Despite being designated to pre-1876 United States history, the Society’s programs are spread over a wide scope of topics and perspectives. Even though my work is fairly solitary and removed from the main library building, by working so intensely with the archived footage I feel as though I have been given a unique insight into AAS’s public image and the important topics that it champions and cherishes.
So far, the over twenty programs that I have worked with (now all available on the channel) span from lectures given in 2002 to public programs that took place earlier this year. Topics span from little-known New England residents like Hiram Harwood and his struggle with mental illness to examinations of eminent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln.
I have watched how AAS not only champions the pure historians, but also puts the spotlight on creative endeavors. In an interesting talk from earlier this year (see video above), Tess Taylor reads her historical poetry and goes into detail about how the Society had provided the perfect setting and the best research materials to fuel inspired stanzas of historical weight. Even though Taylor’s work differs from the historical writing that most of these talks focus on, the Society is still the shining star of the program. No matter what a reader comes in to research or discover, they leave inspired and eager to share their discoveries.
Even though I have only been working here for a couple of months, I feel as though I understand the passion that people have for this place. There is a certain enthusiasm that draws all of the diverse programs together. The success of the speakers, their final products, their advancements all seem to stem from time at AAS. Experiencing these programs one after the other as I edit them has not only added to my historical knowledge, but has proven the importance for remembrance and the creative encouragement that it subtly provides. With the AAS YouTube channel others can now experience the same realizations that I did, or simply be able to re-watch memorable programs from the past and feel inspired by these speakers.