For the next five weeks students from my introductory Public History class at Assumption College will take on new responsibilities as guest curators for the Adverts 250 Project. During this time, each guest curator will oversee the project for a week, selecting which advertisements to feature and writing a brief commentary explaining why they chose each of them. I will offer additional reflections and analysis.
Each student has learned how to navigate Readex’s Early American Newspapers database. In order to feature advertisements published on this date exactly 250 years ago (or as near as possible on those dates that no newspaper was printed in colonial America) each has learned about publication practices and schedules and, in turn, charted a calendar of all the newspapers published during his or her week. They have written drafts of their commentary and met with me one-on-one during office hours to discuss their work. I have made suggestions for revisions, but I have not intensively edited their work. I prefer that each of them speaks (well, writes) in his or her own voice.
In addition to offering hands-on experience for my students, I anticipate that this will yield benefits for me as well. Because we possess different levels of expertise and knowledge about the history of advertising, print, and consumer culture (as well as eighteenth-century America more generally), students will likely notice or have questions about different elements of newspaper advertising than those that usually attract my attention. In preliminary meetings with students, they have already challenged me to think about some of their advertisements in new ways.
Some students have already described this project as “fun” in addition to educational. I hope that regular readers will also enjoy this experience. I know that I have been having a great time working with this engaged and dedicated group of students so far this semester.