Reflections from Guest Curator Aidan Griffin

With my week of curating for the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project ending today, I will reflect on it. What I think is most important is that “doing” history is fun and interesting rather than boring. History is much more enjoyable once someone looks deeper into it and discovers that connections between then and now are numerous. Although the past has passed, that does not mean that it has no effect on the present.

Looking back at the advertisements, one of the most striking changes from revolutionary America to now is the language used. I was especially struck by the long form of “s,” as I never saw it before, and it looks kind of like “f.” Additionally, I saw that advertisements have not changed that much since the eighteenth century, as big, blocky words were used to describe whatever was being advertised and then all the other information was smaller. One difference I noticed is that there was no fine print in any of the advertisements, which is different from today. I learned about revolutionary American politics by making connections with something that was advertised and an event or process. My advertisement for April 4 provides an example of this: I made a connection between English goods being advertised to the consumer revolution in colonial America before the Revolution began.

All of history is interconnected; historical events have effects on the present day. I learned that history is connected from doing research with primary sources. I also learned that even though all the people from the advertisements I chose to examine are long dead, they still felt alive when I did research about them. The advertisements made it possible to recreate part of someone’s life.

Before I started this project, I thought it would be difficult. I remember I was filled with apprehension when I first heard about it. However, actually doing the project was not as difficult as I imagined and quite interesting and enjoyable. The most difficult part of this project was working with the newspapers from 1769. This is because some of the newspapers were partially damaged before they were digitized, so now in some advertisements some letters in multiple words are missing. The worst was when at least one word was missing, as I had to guess what word would have been there. Additionally, some of the advertisements had words that were sometimes hard to read, so trying to decide what some words said was problematic.

I think making connections with things beyond the newspapers made this project more enjoyable. At first, I just had one advertisement, but then by making connections with other events and daily life in early America, I gained a larger collection of knowledge. I think making those connections was the most rewarding part of this project.

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