Not everyone will get to conduct research at Antiquarian Hall, nor even have a chance to visit. Still, a virtual tour is open to everyone, as the AAS has one of the more comprehensive websites you will find. Joanne Chaison, Research Librarian, provided us with our virtual tour. Among the many features of the website are online exhibits from the AAS collections, a survey of new acquisitions, listings of publications from the Society and of publications and films based on research at the AAS, a description of the fellowship program, and an online store. However, Ms. Chaison focuses on two main areas of the website.
The first is the online enhanced version of the Society’s guidebook, “Under Its Generous Dome.” One need only look straight up from anywhere in the reading room to understand from where the title was drawn. The “generous” comes from the Society’s openness in sharing its resources. This guide will tell you almost everything about the Society, its history, cataloging, programs, and all about its collections. It’s worth a look if you’re at all interested in seeing what an extraordinary collection of early printed Americana looks like.
The second focus of the website is its online catalog. This is a feature no book collector should miss. Those of you familiar with the Americana Exchange’s bibliographic database will particularly appreciate this feature. Rather than the search of bibliographies and various collector, dealer or auction catalogs provided by this site, the AAS provides a search into its own catalog. And, since the AAS collections include two-thirds of all pre-1821 Americana, and vast quantities of material from 1821-1876, the listings are extensive.
The online catalog is designed to be searchable in many different ways. You won’t be limited to the old author or title search of a card catalog. You can search through numerous other fields, such as names, subjects, year of publication, name of printer, and many more.
Naturally, the search will show you what’s available in the AAS library with information about their copy. However, the descriptions of the AAS’ copies can be very helpful in understanding copies in your own collection, or finding out more about titles you wish to collect. Of course, if you have printed material prior to 1877 that does not show up in the AAS catalog, you may have something interesting. If it predates 1821 and the AAS doesn’t have it, it’s probably very interesting. The Society would undoubtedly like to hear about it.
To visit the American Antiquarian Society website, go to www.americanantiquarian.org.