Community Open House

Saturday, May 4, 2019 - 10:00am to 3:00pm

Addition brings stories of early America into the 21st century

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS), a national research library and center of scholarship for pre-20th Century American history and culture, will host a grand opening of a three-story, 7,000 sq. ft. addition to its 109-years-old Antiquarian Hall on Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The public is invited free of charge.

The addition, which includes the Learning Lab, a multi-purpose room for programming, a state-of-the-art conservation studio, and infrastructure improvements to secure climate-controlled storage, “dramatically increases our capacity to preserve and share the multitude of American stories documented in the printed record of our nation’s past,” said Ellen S. Dunlap, AAS president.

The new Learning Lab is key to sharing the AAS collections in the 21st century. The teleconferencing capabilities of the room will allow individuals around the world to join AAS programs and comfortably engage with the collection materials. They will also be able to access the expertise of AAS staff, fellows, and members through virtual engagements online.

At the heart of all AAS programming is connecting people to the actual items in its collections. During the open house on May 4, visitors will be able to tour the new spaces, meet AAS staff, members, and research fellows and view items from AAS collections.

The AAS was founded in 1812 by Revolutionary War patriot and printer Isaiah Thomas. It is both a learned society and a major independent research library. AAS was presented with the 2013 National Humanities Medal by President Obama “…for safeguarding the American story.” It is the first and only research library to be so honored.

The AAS library—with some four million items—houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music, and graphic arts material printed through 1876 in what is now the United States. Additionally, AAS holdings include manuscripts and a substantial collection of secondary texts, bibliographies, and digital resources and reference works related to all aspects of American history and culture before the twentieth century.

Among highlights of the AAS collection:

  • The first book printed in British North America, The Whole Booke of Psalmes (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1640), commonly referred to as the Bay Psalm Book.
  • The only surviving copy of the first modern novel published in America, Pamela by Samuel Richardson, printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1742.
  • The first Bible published in this country, an edition printed in the language of the Algonquian language of the Natick Indians by the Reverend John Eliot in 1663.
  • The only known copy of an 1804 political cartoon entitled A Philosophic Cock, which lampoons Thomas Jefferson for his affair with his slave Sally Hemings.
  • All but two of Paul Revere’s engravings are among 200,000 graphic arts and ephemera items including political cartoons, maps, lithographs, portraits, photographs, and paintings.

The Society sponsors a broad range of programs – visiting research fellowships, workshops, seminars, conferences, publications, lectures and performances – for constituencies ranging from school children and their teachers, through undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, creative and performing artists and writers and the general public.

The AAS is a nonprofit, tax exempt, private organization with an annual operating budget of $5 million and an endowment of approximately $60 million. Approximately 60 people are employed by AAS.

Antiquarian HallThe AAS library at Antiquarian Hall is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed on all legal holidays. The library is open to all serious researchers, free of charge.

The addition to the AAS’ Antiquarian Hall was designed by Samuel Anderson Architects of New York, which specializes in art and archive study centers, art and book conservation laboratories, collection storage and support facilities, the addition features a three-story glass and copper façade. The general contractor on the project was Erland Construction of Burlington, MA. A gallery of construction photos documents this project.

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