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.

 

Welcome, Guest Curator Jonathan Bisceglia

Jonathan Bisceglia is a sophomore double majoring in History and Education at Assumption College. He has previously completed an interview in collaboration with the Worcester Women’s Oral History Project and presented on that project at Assumption College’s annual Undergraduate Symposium in 2016. His graphic design work was featured in an exhibit at the American Antiquarian Society during Black History Month in 2016: “From Frederick Douglass to Ferguson: Graphic Design Projects on Race in Modern America Inspired by the Collections of the American Antiquarian Society.” He is a resident assistant at Assumption College during the academic year and works on Cape Cod over the summers.

Welcome, Jonathan Bisceglia!

Reflections from Guest Curator Shannon Dewar

For as long as I can remember, History has been my favorite subject in school. I can remember doing full body outlines of prominent women in the Revolutionary War, basket weaving, and making our own countries up and creating their own governments throughout my days as a student in elementary school. Middle and high school challenged me to delve deeper into both primary and secondary sources and I grew a passion for uncovering knowledge about the past. My fondest memory was the summer going into junior year when we had homework for AP U.S History: it was to read John Adams by David McCullough. While most others in my class found the book long and considered it boring, I found it enriching and insightful. It was from that point on that I knew my love of history would be with me forever, and it ignited in me a spark to continue that passion as a major in college.

Being a guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project has given me the opportunity fall in love with history all over again. I have been able to view it from an entirely new perspective. Instead of just reading sources and integrating them into essays for classes, I actually get to do history. I was able to take what I’ve learned, and actually create my own pieces to be posted for many historians and others to view. After all the years I had been the one reading people’s work, now I can actually know that someone is reading and learning from mine.

While serving as guest curator has been an amazing and insightful experience, it has not come without its challenges. I have had to learn about an entirely new topic, advertising. In addition, I have had to delve deeper into commerce and business in the colonial and Revolutionary periods and learn about the economy in a new light. Though challenging, this project has allowed me to see more into the daily life of Revolutionary America and enabled me to acquire new knowledge about the period.

Just as this project has had challenges, it has also had many rewards. I have absolutely loved the chance to work on a project that allows me to address readers not just within in the small realm of my classroom on campus, but way beyond that, including both national and international readers. The thought of someone reading my work who does not know me is quite amazing. Also, I’ve grown in confidence in my ability to write about history, and take chances in my work, allowing myself to interpret what I read and see differently than how others may. Throughout the process, I have loved to work with sources at the American Antiquarian Society and in online databases that I have never seen before. Being able to work at the American Antiquarian Society, I believe, has been my favorite part, because it is places like that where history is still alive and flourishing.

Going forward, I hope that I get the chance to work again in some capacity with a digital humanities project. It has allowed me to grow in confidence as a writer and historian, as well as provided me with undergraduate experience in a different kind of project. Guest curating the Adverts 250 Project has taught me skills that will take me farther into my future endeavors.

Welcome, Guest Curator Shannon Dewar

Shannon Dewar is a junior at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is majoring in History with minors in Education and Psychology. Her career goals include pursuing a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs in hopes of working in a university setting. On campus, she works as a resident assistant, Admissions Ambassador, and, most recently, as an intern for the Dean of Campus Life. Her favorite historical topics include imperialism, the Revolutionary War, and the Cold War.

Welcome, Shannon Dewar!

Welcome Back, Guest Curator Megan Watts

Megan Watts is a sophomore at Assumption College, where she is a History major and intends to pursue a minor in Women’s Studies. She has enjoyed participating in various educational programs offered at the Fairfield Museum and History Center in Fairfield, Connecticut. She plans to become an historian, believing that understanding the past leads to a better future for the world. She was a guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 23 to 29, 2016, as well as curator of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of November 27 to December 3, 2016, and March 26 to April 1, 2017.

Welcome back, Megan Watts!

Reflections from Guest Curator Ceara Morse

My second round of Adverts 250 was an interesting one to say the least. It took my experience from last semester and tried to find better sources. Sometimes I failed and at other times I excelled. Last semester I used JSTOR for all my sources but I found that to be difficult. This semester I tried to broaden my sources. I found a lot of better fitting sources and I found some very interesting stories to tell. This made my analysis that much better because I found sources I really enjoyed reading. Overall, this part of the project was the easiest. Of course there is always room for improvement. If I ever had an opportunity to do this project again, I think I would want to do more research on words I do not know in the advertisements. Plus, for some reason I thought brewers and distillers were one and the same. I learned something new.

I will say there were some crazy moments, however. I was juggling multiple projects, one of which was giving me loads of stress, but that’s a whole other story. In the beginning, I thought I was going to have an upper hand on the project because I had already done it once before, but nonetheless, life is full of curveballs and it was not as easy as I thought it would be. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, because it would not have been so satisfying to finish if it had been as easy as I expected.

I got to learn so many new things about life in the colonial and Revolutionary eras. I think my favorite thing to learn about was Eastern White Pine and the Pine Tree Riot of 1772 because that’s not something in most of the history books but it had an impact on the rising tension between the English and the colonists that led to the Revolutionary War. Another interesting thing I learned about was William Jackson. He had an interesting start thanks to his mother and he is riddled into American history, such as not participating in the non-importation agreements to being captured when he tried to flee Boston because he was a Loyalist.

I think the most rewarding part of this experience was the fact that I knew people were reading my work and getting something out of it. Most of the things I wrote about I had never even heard of before so I hope to some people who read my analysis learned something too. We gained this opportunity to read into advertisements and got the chance to delve into why certain items were so popular while others were unique. Being able “do history” is such a rewarding experience because there is always something new to learn about and then can teach that new information to someone else.

Overall, I once again thoroughly enjoyed working on this project. Learning about the past helps us in the future and I find it fascinating how some of the items being advertised can lead to much larger stories that could even relate to today. I am looking forward to continuing the Slavery Adverts 250 in a week and delving into the commercial trade of slaves.

Welcome Back, Guest Curator Ceara Morse

Ceara Morse is a sophomore majoring in History and Secondary Education at Assumption College. From a young age she found history interesting because history is being made every day, not just in the distant past. She is fascinated by many historical periods and places, but wants to focus on U.S. History. She will be guest curator of the Adverts 250 Project during the week of March 19 to 25, as well as curator of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project for the week of April 2 to 8.  She has previously served as guest curator of the Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 30 to November 5, 2016, as well as curator of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 9 to 15, 2016.

Welcome back, Ceara Morse!