Interview with Guest Curator Elizabeth Curley

Elizabeth Curley has completed her second and final week as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project.  As we say farewell to her, let’s take a few moments to find out more about her  behind-the-scenes contributions to this project.

Adverts 250:  This was your second week as guest curator. How did it compare to the first time? Did you make any changes to your research or writing process based on what you learned the first time?

Elizabeth Curley:  My second time as guest curator was much less stressful on one side, and much more stressful on another side. This time I had my process down and I knew how I wanted to procced with gathering my information. I got a whole new cycle of advertisements to research and to interpret. The first week I had no idea of where to do research, how much research to do, what I wanted to say. The second week I had all that knowledge and was able to put it to good use. The analogy that comes to my mind to describe the feeling is that I was no longer a freshman running around on the first day of my first semester wondering where the heck all my classes were. By my second week as guest curator I was the sophomore laughing at all the freshman running around on the first day!

Adverts 250:  What is the most important or most interesting thing that you learned about early American history throughout the process of working on this project?

Elizabeth Curley:  Early American history is not nearly recorded or taught enough about. The whole time I was doing this project I would get a piece of information, then research it, then was left with another question, which would lead me to a source, which wouldn’t be creditable. So I would have to find a creditable source which led me to one little piece of information, which would lead me to another why question. It was horrible. It was at the same time the most exhilarating and stressful process.

Obviously when the colonial Americans were living their lives they did not know we would care so much (except the founding fathers: they definitely knew we would care). They did not record or keep enough information for my liking. Coming from the Lexington, Massachusetts, public school system, when it comes to colonial American history I considered myself at an advantage. Then I started researching these advertisements. At very turn I wanted more information, and I was lucky if I could find it.

Adverts 250:  What is the most important thing you learned about “doing history” as a result of working on this project?

Elizabeth Curley:  Doing history is not easy; it’s actually very hard. It is not something you can turn off easily once its been turned on either. For two weeks my mind has been connecting things learned in my Public History class with my education class and with my art class. It’s exhausting, but it puts a whole new wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. Doing history is being mindful and active with knowledge. As a college student, I take in so many fact a day then only take them out of my head when I have to, but when you’re doing history you can not do that. You must place all the factors together, and involve yourself beyond remembering the information. If you do the Advert 250 Project without actively involving yourself, you’re doing a project your professor assigned to you, not doing history.

Adverts 250:  What is your favorite advertisement from your two weeks as guest curator? Why?

Elizabeth Curley:  I couldn’t pick a favorite, to be honest. All the advertisements I worked on had some type of personal connection to me, which made me like all of them. However, the top three have all been in my second week for sure. The advertisement about Harvard Library was so interesting just because I never knew about that, and finding it out made me feel like I was finding out a secret. The advertisement about James Askew was so interesting because I can be completely honest with the fact that I knew nothing about Pennsylvania before, and all the other interesting information I found out about colonial bankruptcy was fun too, even though it did come out with the advertisement. My advertisement about Elizabeth Clark and the Boston seed merchants was so fascinating because it was about Boston: a city that I proudly declared myself from and part of.

Adverts 250:  Is there anything else you would like to share with visitors to the Adverts 250 Project?

Elizabeth Curley:  The Adverts 250 Project was both the best and the worst two weeks of my life. Ask my roommates and they will tell you I was sometimes miserable. There were at least three days I spent at least five hours (on the third floor of our school library in a small room, in complete silence) on just the next day’s advertisement. I ran through a whole pack of post-its to mark connections and make notes, and they were everywhere: in my bed, next to my toothbrush, on top of the fan above our stove (don’t tell my RA). I will agree with them too. I was miserable so much so I forgot to eat two of those times (and I never forget food).

But I would not have traded it for the world. Personally, I was so much more into the advertisements the second week that the research was overwhelmingly exciting and rewarding. Between finding sources, answering the questions I had, chasing answers and then compiling all the information was like a process of fulfilling destiny. I was making information that might never connect come together. Even if no one ever saw it, I was putting it there. If I was not already so in love with being a future teacher, I would look into being a history researcher for the rest of my life. This was truly one of the most rewarding projects of my life.

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Thank you, Elizabeth.  You have made some very impressive contributions to the project!

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