Every spring and fall AAS produces a series of public programs and offers them to the public at no charge. While we often see over a hundred people at these presentations, we are now expanding the audience for these programs by presenting recorded podcasts of them. The web page Podcasts from the American Antiquarian Society currently has two of our latest programs by John Hench and Ilyon Woo. Additionally, the site contains other short films created by and about the Society including a promotional video featuring Walter Cronkite for the Society’s 175th anniversary celebration in 1987. We hope to add additional video segments and to post podcasts of our lectures shortly after each is presented as part of our public program series.
John Hench delivered the twenty-seventh annual James Russell Wiggins lecture in the History of the Book in America on November 16, 2010. The podcast captures all the wit, wisdom, and reflection of John’s wonderful program. John was formerly the senior vice president for collections and programs at the Society and worked here for thirty-three years before his retirement in 2006. He was instrumental in conceiving and then administrating the Society’s seminal Program in the History of the Book in America and his talk recounts that important chapter in the Society’s history. John brilliantly describes his own fascination with books throughout his childhood, education, and professional career culminating in his latest scholarship on the role American publishers played in rebuilding post-World War II Europe.
Ilyon Woo conducted research at AAS for her recently published book The Great Divorce as a Kate and Hall J. Peterson fellow during the 2004-05 academic year. The podcast of her lecture, delivered on September 28, 2010, details how Ilyon’s experience at AAS transformed her project both because of the key evidence she uncovered in the library and how her interactions with AAS staff and other fellows helped her to sharpen the narrative arch of her story about a woman named Eunice Chapman who fought her husband, the Shakers, and the conventions of American Society in the early 1800s to gain custody of her children.
Additionally, this webpage contains two other short films created as part of the Society’s services for pre-collegiate educators and their students. AAS curator of newspapers, Vincent Golden is featured in one film describing the characteristics of antebellum newspapers. Vince shows us some temperance and anti-slavery newspapers as examples of those promoting a particular reform movement. He also shares several journals published under the auspices of a political party.
Another short film entitled “The Patriot Printer” imagines Isaiah Thomas printing the May 3, 1775 issue of his paper The Massachusetts Spy, which contains Thomas’s account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Thomas, as portrayed by actor Neil Gustafson, describes the characteristics of eighteenth-century newspapers as he hands his latest issue to post riders who will dispatch it to the rest of the colonies. He then stresses the importance to the nascent American rebellion of controlling the narrative of the first battles of the war. Both of these videos are also on the Society’s website designed specifically for K-12 populations: www.teachushistory.org.
And finally, the podcast page features a historic film created as part of the Society’s 175 anniversary celebrations. Narrated by former CBS-TV journalist Walter Cronkite, this program describes the Society’s collections and programs and offers us a fascinating time capsule of how we lived in 1987. We are now in the process of creating a new film promoting the Society as part of our 200th anniversary in 2012. When completed, it too will be added to this podcast page.