We love the moments when an artist fellow discovers something totally unique and profound relating to their research. Whether finding an outline of a pressed dandelion in handwritten poem, a children’s book on natural philosophy, the diary of a freed slave who in 1822 sailed to Hawaii as a missionary, or early photographs taken in Yellowstone National Park, these “ah-ha” moments often lead to an unfoldment of ideas. One unexpected source often leads to another, and one of our favorite aspects of working at AAS is that we often find ourselves falling down these rabbit holes along with the fellows, scouring the catalog for clues or anything else that may inspire them during their time at the Society.
Just as each creative artist fellow brings a unique project to the reading room, each fellow also brings an individual process. Some methodically read books and pamphlets cover to cover. Some sketch. Others photograph. Some build out small exhibitions across several reading room tables to contrast and compare sources. It’s not difficult to see how these various processes become a thing unto themselves–pieces of artwork that inspire the fellows and AAS staff alike. People walking through the reading room frequently stop and admire the work of our creative artists. These moments often lead to lively conversations between staff, fellows, and readers.
Since the program’s inception in 1995, there have been 118 Creative and Performing Artists & Writers Fellows that have worked under the generous dome of Antiquarian Hall. When planning to celebrate the 25th anniversary began, we jumped at the chance to build a web showcase of the artists and writers and their work. So many fellows came immediately to mind. We reminisced about the projects we watched take shape source-by-source in the reading room. We wondered what grew from these discoveries and were excited to contact our past fellows and learn about the projects started here at AAS.
Over the past six months, our email inboxes have been overflowing with project updates from fellows that contain hundreds of images, links and videos, excerpts, and reflections on personal experiences working with the sources at AAS.
The result of this project is Artists in the Archive, an online showcase recently launched on the AAS website.
The navigation bar at the top of the page offers seven ways to jump in to the showcase. Click on any of the fellows pictured on the meet the fellows page to delve into each individual’s work. The explore by medium section organizes the fellows by fiction writers, film and media makers, musicians and composers, non-fiction writers, performance artists, playwrights, poets, and visual artists. Works researched during the fellowship program are displayed in the virtual bookshelf, gallery, and media sections. All 118 fellows have a pages accessible from both alphabetical and chronological lists.
As you browse through these pages, we hope that you too can draw inspiration from these powerful, imaginative, and beautiful works created by our fellows. We certainly have!
The Artists in the Archive showcase is available at https://www.americanantiquarian.org/artists-in-the-archive.