When the AAS was founded in 1812, and for much of the nineteenth century, most educated men and women took an interest in history as one of the obligations of being citizens in the American republic. As the writing and teaching of history became increasingly professionalized and specialized in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, gaps developed between academic historians and the general public.
As one of the few American learned societies whose membership rolls include a substantial proportion of lay people as well as scholars, AAS is committed to help bring the work of American historians before the general public--to connect scholars and citizens, in other words. AAS public programs spotlight the work not only of historians but also of creative and performing artists and writers who have performed research at the Society.
Programs include a wide variety of events, including lectures, book discussions, theatrical and musical presentations, and film showings. Some of these public programs reach wider audiences by being taped for presentation of National Public Radio and on the weekend Book TV programming of the national cable network C-SPAN 2.
Each year the Robert C. Baron Lecture brings a distinguished AAS member who has written a seminal work of history to Antiquarian Hall to reflect on the book’s impact on scholarship and society in the years since its first appearance.
The James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture, inaugurated in 1983, annually features statements on key methodological and interpretive issues by scholars in several disciplines.