Revisiting Rebellion: Nat Turner in the American Imagination
Using print and manuscript collections at the American Antiquarian Society and the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, this exhibition explores portrayals of Turner in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Depictions often reveal less about who Turner was and more about the zeitgeist in which a given Turner was created. The bookends of this exhibition are the two “confessions”: one from 1831 and the other from 1967 when William Styron created the most controversial version of Turner to date. These works, as well as a sampling of Turner portrayals in the 136 years in between, are classified into six categories suggesting the range of characterizations of this controversial figure. Works might characterize Turner a number of ways that contradict one another as they imagine, in the words of Kenneth Greenberg, “the most famous, least-known person in American history.” (October 2016)
Early American News Media
The history of America has always been intimately entwined with the history of communications media—and that has always been changing. This exhibition broadly explores the interconnectedness of American news media, in all its formats, with changes in technology, business, politics, society, and community from 1730 to 1865. Today, mass media and social media infuse every aspect of our lives. New digital technologies have disrupted traditional forms of print, radio, and television and transformed not only how we communicate with one another, but how we participate in the economy, community, and civic life. The Internet has dramatically changed how we produce, share, and consume media content, including the news. Now anyone with a smartphone can be a journalist and any website a television channel. (September 2016)
English to Algonquian
Some of the earliest and rarest materials printed in British North America were not printed in English. Instead, these books, pamphlets, and broadsides were printed in the various dialects of Algonquian, the language of the Native Americans who populated the American Northeast. This exhibition explores the contributions of those who labored in translating and printing works in the Algonquian family of native languages. The people, organizations, and publications presented here offer an opportunity to reexamine the historical narrative surrounding the creation of the few surviving seventeenth-century documents that capture the language of an entire cultural group. (March 2016)
Mill Girls in Nineteenth-Century Print
The popularity of the mill girl, in both word and image, came about in no small part due to their representation in print. This exhibition features items from newspaper and periodical publications, ranging from labor magazines such as the Man to literary monthlies such as Harper’s. Featuring selections both by and about the mill girls, from approximately 1834 to 1870, the exhibition highlights the culture and working conditions of the mills and the actions the women took to better their lives through self-advocacy. (January 2016)
James Fenimore Cooper: Shadow & Substance
The American Antiquarian Society is a natural home for an online exhibition about James Fenimore Cooper's works. For many years the Society has supported The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, an editorial project the bears the seal of the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions. To support the work of the editors of the Writings, also knows as the Cooper Edition, the Society has actively collected editions of Cooper's works printed in any language up to the year 1877. (October 2015)
Women and the World of Dime Novels
Full of romance and adventure, dime novels were a variety of melodramatic fiction that was popular in the United States from about 1860 until the early 1900s. Published as cheap paperbacks (most cost only ten cents), they were generally regarded as low-quality fiction. The characters fought, fell in love, got married, and occasionally killed each other (or sometimes themselves). Women, more often than not, were major characters in these novels. Many of the novels were described as "romances" and featured a hero and heroine struggling against all the odds (or recalcitrant guardians) to get married. Dime novel heroines played leading roles even in the adventure stories and the historical fiction focused on Colonial times or the American Revolution. These women could be daughters, wives, mistresses, captives, and even experts with firearms. (September 2015)
Louis Prang and Chromolithography
This online exhibition showcases the collection and career of Boston lithograph firm Louis Prang & Company, within the collections of the American Antiquarian Society. Featuring prints, salesman's samples and progressive proof books, this exhibition tells the story of Prang during the height of his career in chromolithography during the second half of the nineteenth century. Prang pioneered developments in the chromolithographic process, creating painting-like prints for the general public. He is also considered the "Father of the American Christmas card" having introduced it to the American public in 1874 after the wife of an agent suggested the idea to him while he was promoting his business abroad. Instrumental in the promotion of art education for public school students, Prang helped develop curriculum for schools, teaching art instructors, and creating safe, quality art supplies for students.
In Pursuit of a Vision: Two Centuries of Collecting at the American Antiquarian Society
In the early days of the American Antiquarian Society, founder Isaiah Thomas asked members to send materials for preservation in the Society's library at Worcester, Massachusetts. He explained, "We cannot obtain a knowledge of those who are to come after us, nor are we certain what will be the events of future times; as it is in our power, so it should be our duty to bestow on posterity that which they cannot give to us, but which they may enlarge and improve and transmit to those who shall succeed them." Over the course of two hundred years, generations of the Society's members, friends, and staff have ably answered Thomas's call. This exhibition celebrates the generosity and farsightedness of some of the many collectors, book dealers, and librarians who have, each in his or her own way, contributed to the greatness of AAS.
The American Antiquarian Society, 1812-2012: A View at the Bicentennial
In the Spring of 2012, AAS published The American Antiquarian Society, 1812-2012: A Bicentennial History by Philip F. Gura. To supplement this publication, the Society digitized and made available in high-resolution the images and descriptions from the text. This online resource is offered for those interested in engaging with these pieces or for those who seek a general history of the Society spanning its two-century existence.
Beauties of America
This online resource both catalogs and contextualizes the twenty-two pieces of the Ridgway dinner service “Beauties of America” – a subset of the Society' collection of Staffordshire potter using maps, photographs, source prints and rich descriptions of the objects.
Men in the Young Republic
This online exhibition explores images of men in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century. The selection of prints from the Society's collections represents male roles and activities and reflects social expectations.
(May; October 2011)
Shakespeare in the Parlor
This online exhibit, generated using images from the Prints in the Parlor cataloging and digitization project, considers the ways William Shakespeare's (1564-1616) characters were pictured inside the covers of literary annuals and gift books in the nineteenth-century.
A Place of Reading: Three Centuries of Reading in America
This exhibitions uses images and objects from the AAS collections to illuminate the spaces where reading happened in early America.
Beauty, Virtue and Vice: Images of Women in Nineteenth-Century American Prints
Most of the prints in this exhibit were designed simply to please the eye, but they are also useful to historians who would like to understand how 19th century Americans thought about the world in which they lived. Explored are artistic depictions of the standard of beauty, ideal beauty, women as objects, variations on the standard, true womanhood, women at home, American slavery, women in public life, women as performers, use of women as advertising strategies and more.
Big Business: Food Production, Processing & Distribution in the North, 1850-1900
This online exhibition features lithographs, chromolithographs, trade catalogues, trade cards, and product labels from the American Antiquarian Society's collection that help shed light on major changes in the way Americans in the North produced and sold their food in the second half of the nineteenth century.
An Invitation to Dance: A History of Social Dance in America showcases the unique print culture items on the subject of dance within the Society's holdings. From its fashion and origins, to its etiquette and opposition, this online exhibit features a sampling of artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries. Click on the image to the left from Stephen Salisbury's "Bal Masque" ticket to attend.
Architectural Resources at the American Antiquarian Society highlights the excellent design books, architectural drawings, lithographs, engravings, periodicals, and photographs of architecture found in the Society's collections.
Summer Vacationing in New England
This exhibition brings together a selection of images from the Society's collections that illustrate the most popular and most beautiful New England destinations for summertime visitors.
The David Claypoole Johnston Collection
This exhibition highlights the Society's outstanding collection of lithographs, watercolors, and drawings of artist David Claypoole Johnston.
Portraits! Worcester Portraits in the American Antiquarian Society Collection
This exhibition features the images of thirty-one Worcester residents depicted in the Society's portrait paintings, miniatures, and sculpture collections.
A Woman's Work is Never Done
A look at women's work, from before the American Revolution through the Industrial Revolution, using selected images from the Society's collection.
Making Valentines: A Tradition in America is designed to show the evolution of the Valentine's Day card. This exhibition is drawn, in part, from an original display created by AAS staff member Audrey Zook in 1985. It includes a select group of Valentine's Day cards belonging to the Society.
Visions of Christmas exhibits an array of Christmas images from the Society's collections. Among the featured artists are F.O.C. Darley, Thomas Nast, Louis Prang, and the McLoughlin Brothers.