Reflections from Guest Curator Jonathan Bisceglia

During my time working on the Adverts 250 Project I spent quite a lot of time trying to decipher the meaning of sometimes very vague advertisements for things as basic as lodging and as complex as slavery. I feel this taught me more about history than pretty much anything I have ever done. The reason this was so powerful and effective for me was because it was real and in most cases I could see the actual thing I was learning about and working with. These were not just some boring anecdotes in a text book or a slow documentary. They were actual advertisements in newspapers created 250 years ago. Working with this type of primary sources is something that I have never had a chance to do, which was scary at first, but once I started doing my research it became a lot easier to decipher meaning in these sources.

I cannot stress enough the meaning this project has to me. There are several different reasons why I was hesitant to even work on the project but having worked through it I feel changed in many ways. I know this sounds cliché but for me this project changed quite a bit in my life and gave me new meaning for the future.

At the beginning of the Adverts 250 Project I thought the most difficult part would be gathering the information and then composing my summary and analysis. This was not the case. This project created a revival in what was a dwindling passion for history. The hardest part of the project was coming to terms with the idea that I wanted to change my prospective future career. I had originally planned on being a high school history teacher but the Adverts 250 Project made me realize that I would not enjoy that but rather I would enjoy teaching upper-level students who can appreciate it more.

This would become the meaning that I found during the course of my week guest curating for the Adverts 250 Project. I would also say that this was also one the most rewarding parts of the project. The other was the amount of information that I learned through my time curating the project. This is not just how to look at a primary source and deduce what it is about, but actually what can be learned from every single advertisement. For instance, my advertisement from April 19, 1767, by James King was an open advertisement to try to get men who were “Genteel” to lodge at his abode. Through my years of history class, we had never even used the word genteel. Of course I had known what it meant today but this new curiosity led me to so much new knowledge about the topic and ideas about gentility in colonial and Revolutionary America that I had never had before.

As I already stated, this project really meant a lot to me. It was challenging at times, rewarding at others, but for the most part it was a fun project. I have now realized the importance of doing work like this in college. It has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the future but more importantly it has shown to me that I truly am interested in history and I want to devote my life to this sort of studying and teaching.

 

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