Give a Gift to AAS Give a (digitized) Gift to World!

At most non-profits, November and December are year-end fundraiser months. You are probably getting a lot of solicitation letters in your mail box, along with those stacks of glossy holiday catalogs.  AAS has several important initiatives underway, including donations to our Annual Fund.  This year, however, we are also trying something new.

Council for New England Records, "The booke of Orders," 1622-1623.
Council for New England Records, “The booke of Orders,” 1622-1623.

The Society’s curators have selected thirty objects from the collection that would be excellent candidates for digitization.  These are books, periodicals, photographs, or manuscripts that are heavily used or fragile but are not available digitally through any of our partnerships or collaborative projects.  The inspired idea of our Image Coordinator Jaclyn Penny  (who oversees all of our digital processing), this 2013 year-end initiative will allow the Society to raise the funds needed to photograph and record all thirty of the selected pieces.  In the digital-fundraising catalog the candidates are each listed and described, with the appropriate curator stating why the object should be made available through a digital surrogate.  We spent a couple of weeks selecting material, writing up the texts, building the website – all the while thinking this was going to be a great way for people to help the Society, bit by bit (or byte!), to provide access to important historic documents.  For example, the earliest item is a manuscript of the Council for New England Records, “The booke of Orders,” 1622-1623 (see above), and the latest is the children’s book Christmas Alphabet published by McLoughlin Bros. around 1900 (see below).  Most of the objects are under 80 pages in length and can be digitized for between $25 and $200.

So, great idea, right?  We built the website and made the pitch to our usual email list of friends and supporters (many of whom support our annual Adopt-a-Book program, which will be back in the spring of 2014).  We put the catalog up on Monday morning, November 18th.  And… (drum roll, please) the response has been positively overwhelming!  In the first hours over half of the listings were funded for digitization.  We are so thrilled that this important material is going to be made available for scholars and researchers around the world. Thank you, thank you!

Carolyn Wells, "Christmas Alphabet." New York: McLoughlin Bros. 1899-1900.
Carolyn Wells, “Christmas Alphabet.” New York: McLoughlin Bros. 1899-1900.

Here is how it works — supporters donate the funds to have the selected material digitized (which they can do in honor of someone else).  The material is then taken to our in-house photographer and digitized.  The files are processed and loaded into the Society’s database and links are made to those files from various places, including our online catalog.  Keep an eye on the fundraising catalog, as we will also be putting links there as we process each order.

As I am typing this blog post, more orders are coming in and we are all cheering – it is a bit like a mini-telethon!   I fear that we will not get this post up before everything is gone.  Either way,  we can surely call the initiative a success.  So the Society’s curators send out a great big thank you to all of AAS’s supporters and friends who help and will help us in the future with providing access to our outstanding collections.  I think it is safe to say that we will definitely be repeating this fundraiser again – and yes, there are still a few items left, if you want to cruise over to the website and take a look.

Most sincerely, the Society’s curatorial team: Vincent Golden, Lauren Hewes, Thomas Knoles, Elizabeth Pope, and Laura Wasowicz

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Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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