Saturday, March 7, 2020
March 7-8, 2020: Boston Sites: My Talk at MHS
[On March 5th, 1770, the events of the Boston Massacre unfolded on King’s Street. On March 5th, 2020, the Northeast MLA convention will begin in Boston. So for both the Massacre’s 250th anniversary and that ongoing convention, this week I’ve highlighted some historic sites and collective memories in Boston, leading up to this special post on my recent book talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society!]
For each talk at the historical society, MHS Librarian Peter Drummey pulls a few selected materials from the society’s unrivaled collections to showcase in conjunction with the event. He had options for pretty much all of my book’s chapters (a testament to the breadth as well as depth of those collections), but in consultation we decided to go with some of their amazing materials related to Elizabeth Freeman and slavery in the American Revolutionary era. Honestly, if you can’t get next-level excited to give a book talk a few feet away from handwritten 1780s primary sources about which you wrote in that book, you are almost certainly, to quote Monica Geller, dead inside.
But—and I say this at the risk of losing my AmericanStudier card, but candor first, my friends—not even the most unique and inspiring historical materials can compare with the people and communities to which we can connect at events like this. As at so many amazing institutions, that starts with the staff, who like Peter all made this event one of the most welcoming, smooth, and successful I’ve had. Director of Programs Gavin Kleepsies and Public Programs Coordinator Sarah Bertulli were particular rock stars, as supportive and engaging on the night as the talk as they were helpful and efficient throughout the preparations. And the talk likely wouldn’t have happened at all without Sara Georgini, whose own books and work on the Adams papers and family are public scholarly inspirations in their own right. (Also, to experience the MHS’s amazing efforts for yourself, check out their current Boston Massacre exhibition before it closes in June!)
Finally, as at every book talk (but uniquely in each and every case, which is why I can’t recommend all opportunities for talks strongly enough), the audience responses, questions, and conversations added so much to my own continued thoughts. That included a couple folks with whom I’m proud to be connected beyond that evening: Salem State Professor Neenah Estrella-Luna, whom I’ve met through the Scholars Strategy Network’s Boston Chapter; and the archivist and food studies scholar Laura Kitchings, whom I’ve met through the #twitterstorians community. But most of my conversations before and after the talk were with folks I was meeting for the first time, but with whom I shared the scholarly, AmericanStudies, communal solidarity that makes events like this one, and spaces like the MHS, so inspiring and important.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Other sites and collective memories (in Boston or anywhere else) you’d highlight?