Reflections from Guest Curator Elizabeth Curley

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

The Adverts 250 Project has immensely changed my view of Colonial American history. Before it had been a one-dimensional thing I had learned about in a textbook, and then later in my hometown, Lexington, Massachusetts, from walking around. But that was just it: it was history. I never thought about beyond my tests or projects. Delving into the world of early American newspaper advertisements, however, changed this view. I was able to see and connect every day events from the 1760s to the things I see and do in the twenty-first century. They obviously did not have cell phones or tweet as much as I do (@WomenOfAC ) but their day-to-day lives were not much different. They went to work, they went shopping for wares, and had lives beyond the Redcoats and Patriots. That thought is what made me so interested in this project and made colonial America history seem three-dimensional.

I will say though in the beginning this project was difficult because there are so many small steps in finding each advertisement.  For each advertisement you must first do general research on the Early American Newspapers database.  Then you must map out the days that have newspapers, and which ones have advertisements.  This takes a while and you need to be very organized.  Then they must be approved by Professor Keyes.  After they are all approved then you must write the commentary which has even more research involved.  Once you get the process down it can be much quicker.

The most difficult part of this project for me was actually finding the advertisements and getting them approved. It was hard, because many of the advertisements were published in multiple weeks, so previous guest curators Maia Campbell and Kathryn Severance beat me to them. When you pick your adverts you have to go through and line them up based on the date and also find ones that connect to you somehow. I choose to use ones that connected with me because I feel that it made my commentary easier to write and more genuine for the audience that would be reading them. I wanted the audience to know that: “No, I’m not just some bored college kid doing this because my professor told me to. I genuinely enjoyed the project and the process that was involved.”

Beyond finding the advertisements was the next little step: writing the commentary. This required research, lots and lots of research. However, because I was able to choose advertisements that interested me doing the research and writing the commentary about it was actually enjoyable, because I was interested in what I was learning and writing about.   That did make my commentary a little bit longer than was required, but I felt it was appropriate based on the content of the advertisement and the knowledge that I had gained from the research I had done.

By doing this project I was able to actually be involved in making history relevant and that is what I believe “doing” history is. It is taking history and making it relatable and three-dimensional for as much of the audience as possible. Now that I have done Week 1 of the Adverts 250 project I can say with confidence that Week 2 will be much easier for me. I can not wait to be the guest curator for March 20-26.

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ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:  Carl Robert Keyes

Thank you, Elizabeth, for an engaging selection of advertisements this week.  I appreciate the way that you found a personal connection to each advertisement and your enthusiasm for how these everyday advertisements helped to make colonial America come alive for you.  As she mentioned above, Elizabeth will be returning for a second week as guest curator later in the semester.

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