The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: MHS in the News

Ulrich on Preservation

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, professor of history at Harvard and the most recent recipient of the MHS' John F. Kennedy Medal, mentioned the Historical Society in a recent lecture about the importance of preserving historical artifacts, delivered at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. You can read an account of Ulrich's talk here, via the Deseret News.

One quote that I particularly like: "History is not what happened, it is an account of the past, based on surviving sources. If there are no sources, there is no history."

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 15 June, 2010, 12:00 PM

Holton Wins Bancroft for "Abigail Adams"

We're thrilled and excited here at MHS today to report that our friend Woody Holton has been awarded one of the three 2010 Bancroft Prizes for his book Abigail Adams. One of the most prestigious prizes for books of history, the Bancroft is awarded by the trustees of Columbia University "to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography, and diplomacy."

Congratulations, Woody, on this well-deserved honor!

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 18 March, 2010, 11:24 AM

MHS Videos on C-SPAN

C-SPAN has just announced that a whopping 160,000 hours of video from 1987 to the present is now available free through the C-SPAN Video Library website. These include many MHS-related events from 1999 through 2009, among them:

- Woody Holton's 9 November 2009 talk on his recent biography, Abigail Adams. Video.

- Two panels from the Charlottesville portion of last summer's Adams/Jefferson libraries conference: Jefferson, Adams and Religion (Video) and Jefferson, Adams and Their Legacy (Video).

- A 1999 vignette on the Thomas Jefferson collections at MHS with our librarian, Peter Drummey. Video.

- Joseph Ellis's 16 December 2004 talk on his biography of George Washington, His Excellency. Video.

- A 29 January 2009 lunch talk by Ken Burns on his documentary series "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." Video.

- The dramatic reading of letters between John and Abigail Adams, held at Faneuil Hall on 19 November 2007, featuring Gov. Deval and Diane Patrick, Gov. Mike and Kitty Dukakis, and Sen. Edward and Victoria Kennedy. Video.

To find other MHS-related events (there are many more), just search for "Massachusetts HIstorical Society" in the search bar at the top of the C-SPAN Video Library homepage.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 16 March, 2010, 9:57 AM

In Case You Missed It ...

If you missed the premiere of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on Friday night, which featured Sarah Jessica Parker researching at the MHS, you can watch the entire show online at here.

Oh, and by the way, we should note that in the scene where Ms. Parker is holding a pen, she is not using an original document (even though the editing sort of makes it look that way).

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 8 March, 2010, 6:57 AM

MHS in Primetime!

On 27 January 27 2009 there was a celebrity sighting at the MHS library.  Sarah Jessica Parker, of Sex & the City fame, visited our reading room and worked with material from our manuscript collections. We've kept it under wraps for more than a year waiting for the right moment to tell the world, but now we want everyone to know so that they can share in our celebrity experience!

Sarah Jessica visited as part of filming for the inaugural episode of NBC’s new series "Who Do You Think You Are?" This program, an American adaptation of the hit British documentary series by the same title, follows well-known celebrities as they work to discover their proverbial roots, researching their ancestors in an attempt to learn more about their families and themselves. 

During her visit Sarah Jessica registered as a researcher and followed all the rules of the reading room – although we did allow the film crew to follow her in, which is way beyond our norm. I spent some time working with SJP in the catalog room, helping her identify and call for the material she wanted to see and then brought the material to her in the reading room. We can't tell you which documents she looked at, though - you'll need to tune in to the show in order to find out!

Sarah Jessica was an eager and interested researcher as well as a gracious celebrity guest. Naturally she was interested in seeing the material we held that was connected to her ancestor, but she also asked questions about the size and scope of our collections and how we preserve our documents. After filming wrapped, she stopped in our lobby to chat with a couple of students from Emerson College that had also been conducting research here and posed for photographs with them. She then stayed on into the evening for a tour of the MHS building and a chance to see some of our treasures. While looking at selected materials from the Adams Family Papers we discovered that March 25, the date Thomas Jefferson wrote his last letter to John Adams, is SJP’s birthday (only off by about 140 years). And she enthusiastically agreed when a staff member pointed out that our portrait of Lieutenant Frederick Hedge Webster, who was killed in action while serving in the Massachusetts 54th Regiment in 1864, bore an uncanny resemblance to her husband Matthew Broderick, who played Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, also of the 54th, in the film "Glory."

"Who Do You Think You Are?" debuts on NBC on Friday, 5 March 2010 at 8:00 p.m. with the Sara Jessica Parker episode. The MHS is just one of the many stops Parker makes on her journey of genealogical discovery, so be sure to tune in to learn her story and to catch the MHS library and reading room staff during their 15 minutes of fame. 

 You can watch some "preview clips" from the show here.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 25 February, 2010, 3:26 PM

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