Reflections from Guest Curator Kathryn J. Severance

In the process of guest curating the Adverts 250 Project for my Public History class this week, I learned a great deal about conducting historical research. In doing so, I gained knowledge about the processes associated with “doing” history and about how historians take their research and compile it into something that the public can enjoy. In my time spent researching eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements, I came to understand the intricate research process associated with public history projects. I learned that in presenting my work to the public, I need to find ways to engage an audience that may consist of individuals with varying historical backgrounds. I experienced some challenges in the process of doing this project, though I also found it a very rewarding project to take part in. This project initially seemed like it was more of a challenge than it turned out to be for me.

I aimed my posts towards a broad audience and hoped that my posts would interest both historians and the general public, rather than exclusively the historical crowd. Instead, my hope was that people from all backgrounds could be engaged by my work. I think that history is something that should never be exclusive, but instead, always something that is created in a way that the general public can access without issue. I like this project because I was able to find materials and then share them with a broader audience who may not have otherwise been able to access or view the materials. I also like to make connections to the present day whenever possible, as I feel as though this helps historical material feel real and relevant in today’s world.

I encountered some challenges in my journey to accomplish the project. One of these challenges was time. I tend to overbook my time, from having two jobs, including a paid part-time job and an internship as a reporter, to being a full-time student and social media director for Assumption’s Odyssey group. This means that sometimes I skim over details. The first set of advertisements I chose were from the incorrect week and I had to conduct research again in order to correct my error. However, I did not allow this to make me dislike the project, or to make me feel as though I could not handle the project. I allowed the challenges of the project to fuel my work.

The most rewarding part of the Adverts 250 Project for me, personally, was finding different aspects of the advertisements to research. As a journalist, I thoroughly enjoy the processes associated with researching in general, but in this case it was even more interesting due to the fact that the topics I was researching were based in the eighteenth century, whereas in journalism, the topics I research are often something that occurred during the current century. I had to be innovative with my research methods because in some cases materials on a certain topic would not be readily available, due to their age. This meant I needed to think differently and find a way to break down the advertisement’s text into smaller parts. I was careful to only check out sources that were legitimate and historically accurate to prevent blogging about anything that might include questionable facts. I think that enjoying doing this project helped make it simpler and faster than I had originally expected that it might be.

When I first heard about this project, it seemed interesting, but also like a lot of work. This concerned me because I have a fairly busy schedule this semester and I’m already doing lots of research and writing for my internship at the newspaper. I love to learn as much about history as I can and this project served as a cause for me to do some research on topics within Colonial America that I might not have otherwise ever explored. This project is a wonderful experience for college students to take part in and I wish the other guest curators the very best of luck in their week.

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ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:  Carl Robert Keyes

Thank you, Kathryn, for selecting wonderful advertisements this week.  Your choices often challenged me to think about certain types of advertisements and the appeals they made in new ways.  Kathryn will be returning for another week later in the semester.

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