Back in 2009 when I applied for a NERFC grant, I thought a week at the
Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) would be enough. Was I ever wrong! Over the past two years, I've been back off and on, and definitely racked up more than a week of research --
and quite a bit more than I expected in terms of research discovery.
The more I crunch comparative donors & accession numbers, the more unusual
the CHS was for the 1840s. Not only did the Society have far more women
donors (comparing raw numbers, roughly 10x; comparing individual women as
a percentage of known donors, roughly 5x) -- and a much higher rate of
donors giving material culture artifacts and antiquities (a quarter of CHS
donors gave such whereas all the other HS for which I have numbers were
under 7%). I suspect the two are connected. The CHS also had notably more
known donors overall (for all save one of the comparables thus far, more
than 2x as many known donors).
I presented part of my research at the Berks this past June.
While this presentation focused on the intersection of preservation and
domestic labor (sewing, cleaning), the CHS comes off pretty well.
I'll also be presenting at the ASCH conference in November, more
specifically exploring why the CHS was so unusual in terms of the number
of women donors -- and the number of donations documenting aspects of
women's lives. The paper is tentatively titled "The Importance of Ladies'
Shoes: Connecticut Historical Society Donors and Donations, 1839-1850."
Thank you very much for your research assistance. I've had a lot of
interesting surprises during the course of my research -- but this is in
many ways the most unexpected and rewarding.
Barbara E. Austen
Florence M. Crofut Archivist
Connecticut Historical Society
1 Elizabeth St.
Hartford, CT 06105