Really Old Books

by Hannah on October 23, 2011

“Dressing Democracy: Clothing and Culture in America”

Doesn’t that just sound fascinating?  When a few of my professors contacted me about the 2011 American Studies Seminar with the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) it was this title of the seminar that attracted me.  As a Women’s Studies minor with a passion for fashion I immediately started thinking about all the possibilities the research project could hold.

Despite my excitement to create an incredibly creative, insightful, brilliant project, I still had some anxiety about doing the actual research.  I mean, as a Psychology Major I have done my fair share of research, but I knew would be a bit different from internet searches with PsychINFO.  As far as I could tell, my research would pretty much consist of reading really old books.

Once the course got going our fabulous professor, Hannah Carlson, began taking us over to the AAS archives at the end of every class and presenting these really old books (and other images and documents) to us.  All of a sudden, my feelings towards really these old documents changed – I fell in love.

There’s an indescribable excitement that comes over me when I’m sifting through the pages of a children’s book from 1801, looking at a fashion advertisement by Macy’s from the 1830s, or reading a newspaper column about the new and improved health-preserving corset from 1885.  The idea that all of these books, newspapers, images, diaries, etc. were a part of an individual’s life long before I was even a thought is awe inspiring.

Perhaps this experience is something unique to me, or maybe it’s something you need to experience firsthand to understand.  All I know for sure is that this class has shown me how exciting research with really old books can be!

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