The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Our Youngest Researcher

While the majority of researchers who use our library are adults - college students and above - the MHS often fields research questions from and serves patrons who are in their teens and even younger. Last week, we were visited by a family from California who were visiting relatives in Boston. The youngest daughter, currently in second grade, was working on a class project for Black History Month focusing on the poet Phillis Wheatley (d. 1784). The family came to the library in hopes of viewing an artifact or document in Wheatley's own hand.

After giving the family a short introduction to the research library and our procedures for handling rare books and manuscripts, we arranged for them to view two items from our collection. One item was the first edition of Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, printed in London in 1773 and now held at the MHS as part of the Waterston Library. The second was a letter written by Wheatley to David Wooster on 18 October 1773 about a recent visit to London, where she traveled in hopes of recovering from ill-health and to attend to the publication of her book of poems. We discussed the care and handling of fragile books and manuscripts, and our eight-year-old researcher delighted us by reading the poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America" aloud.

All of the items held at the MHS that relate to Wheatley's life and work have been digitized and made available online as part of the African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts web presentation.


permalink | Published: Friday, 14 January, 2011, 10:00 AM