Reflections from Guest Curator Shannon Holleran

When the Adverts 250 Project was first assigned and I discovered I would be the first guest curator, I felt very intimidated and overwhelmed by the responsibility I was being tasked with. Luckily, once I started to explore the digitized newspapers and select my advertisements, the project became fun and much less overwhelming. As my week as guest curator is coming to an end, I realize I have acquired a greater knowledge of colonial and revolutionary-era America as well as many new techniques for reading and analyzing sources. During this experience, I have faced many challenges along the way; however, the result has been extremely rewarding.

The first step in this process was to select seven advertisements from eighteenth century newspapers, made available online. This was one of my favorite parts of the project because while I was selecting the advertisements I wanted to post about, I was able to see countless colonial and revolutionary-era newspapers and advertisements. I found this to be so fascinating because I could see how much newspapers and advertisements have changed over time. During the eighteenth century, newspapers were a major form of communication for the colonists; however, in today’s society, we often rely on social media as a main form of communication and advertising.

Once I had selected my seven advertisements, I was then tasked with finding other sources (primary, secondary, digital) to tie in with my post. This was one of the most challenging parts of the project for me. I found myself having a difficult time finding reliable, historically accurate sources for the time period I was posting about. I also faced problems with paraphrasing some of my sources and putting them into my own words. I found this challenging because the sources I used were filled with so many interesting facts; however, Professor Keyes gave me extremely helpful tips to avoid simply repeating what my sources had already said. Through this process of tying in other sources, I was able to acquire much more information about the colonies in the eighteenth century.

This digital humanities project helped me expand my knowledge about everyday life and commerce in colonial America. After seeing and analyzing many different advertisements, it was clear that the colonists’ society and economy had become completely Anglicized. It was interesting for me to see how many of the advertisements were about English goods. Many of the advertisements I worked with, specifically my indigo advertisements, revealed how Great Britain would exploit the colonies for their natural resources. The colonies, in return, would import a wide variety of British goods. This helped the economy in colonial America to flourish. Many advertisements revealed the colonists’ rapidly growing economy and the effects this had on society.

Although at times this project was challenging, it was extremely rewarding in the end to see my work published on the Adverts 250 Project website. It was very exciting to see the entries I had worked so hard on be seen by the public. This was the first time I was involved in a project that was published for the general public to see. I was, of course, very worried at first about people viewing my work; however, it was a very neat experience to be a part of. As a history major, I always love learning new things about our nation’s history and gaining new experiences, such as working with digitized resources and having the opportunity to visit the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. I am thankful I was given the opportunity to work on such an interesting project. I am looking forward to curating the Slavery Adverts 250 Project and once again having the opportunity to work with these eighteenth-century newspapers.

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