WORCESTER — Within the fall of 1990, Scott E. Casper, a doctoral scholar at Yale College, got here to the American Antiquarian Society on a fellowship to work on his dissertation.
As a Kate B. and Corridor J. Peterson Fellow he lived within the AAS’s Goddard-Daniels Home and “went on daily basis to the studying room and found new treasures,” Casper mentioned.
He was at the AAS for 4 months, “Lengthy sufficient to observe Worcester transfer from summer season into winter,” he mentioned.
It was additionally an expertise that “reworked me as a scholar and as somebody who thinks about American historical past.”
Casper obtained his Ph D. in American research from Yale College, and the dissertation would finally change into an award-winning ebook, “Developing American Lives: Biography and Tradition in Nineteenth-Century America” (1999).
He stayed in contact with the AAS as his educational and scholarly profession progressed as a historian, writer, professor and faculty dean. “I got here again repeatedly over the following a number of years,” he mentioned.
Now Casper is again because the eighth president within the over 208-year historical past of the American Antiquarian Society, succeeding Ellen S. Dunlap, who retired in late fall of final 12 months after main the establishment for 28 years.
The AAS, situated at 185 Salisbury St., was based on Oct. 24, 1812, on the initiative of Revolutionary Battle patriot and printer Isaiah Thomas. It’s each a discovered society and a serious unbiased analysis library.
The AAS library homes the most important and most accessible assortment of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music and graphic arts materials printed by way of 1876 in what’s now the USA.
Moreover, AAS holdings embrace manuscripts and a considerable assortment of secondary texts, bibliographies and digital assets and reference works associated to all features of American historical past and tradition earlier than the twentieth century.
Casper, who’s initially from Pennsylvania, had most just lately been the dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences on the College of Maryland, Baltimore County.
He moved to Worcester in October and his first official day as president of the AAS was Dec. 1.
For all the good historical past of the Society, nonetheless, Casper has not arrived in search of to have it dwell previously.
He has concepts, together with the brand new initiative “IDEA,” about how the AAS ought to transfer with the occasions and into the long run.
“That is a rare establishment,” he mentioned throughout a latest interview. “In some ways we wish to stay as sturdy as we’ve got ever been. But additionally to stay sturdy we’ve got to adapt and alter.”
In that regard, the AAS has been “speaking about the place we’re and the place we have to go.”
IDEA stands for “inclusiveness, variety, equality and accessibility,” Casper mentioned.
“We are going to take a look at each facet of what we do — our students, our workers, in each method we would like to be as inclusive as we may be. That is a serious endeavor that we have already begun. Eager about being inclusive by no means ends.”
The AAS additionally will “by no means cease” gathering supplies “that mirror the complexity and vary of American tales,” Casper mentioned. New acquisitions will embrace newspapers and kids’s books from the Society’s interval of focus.
Requested if there are tales throughout the AAS’s current assortment that doubtless have not been instructed but, together with from minority voices, Casper mentioned, “Completely. We discover that there are supplies in our assortment which have by no means been used and it takes a reader to convey the supplies to gentle.”
Additionally, supplies which have been used previously “might have new gentle to shed on questions which have by no means been requested earlier than,” Casper mentioned.
“A part of eager about inclusion and variety contains speaking to individuals who may not have been a part of these conversations earlier than. A part of our purpose is to attach with folks who may not have been related with earlier than. We are sometimes used to speaking to the folks we’re used to speaking to. How can we get past that?”
A method is to interact readers and researchers “who’re are usually not from the standard locations,” Casper mentioned. “Reaching out to communities, asking them what they need from the American Antiquarian Society.”
Casper’s “Developing American Lives” used AAS supplies partially to point out how biographies written within the nineteenth century are totally different than what we acknowledge in biographies right now. He additionally examined how conceptions of the style modified over the course of a century.
The ebook “defines a brand new method of conceiving and writing literary historical past,” mentioned a assessment in The Journal of Interdisciplinary Historical past. “A physique of hanging archival materials permits him (Casper) to … supply an interesting set of exemplary circumstances.”
“Developing American Lives” gained the 1999 Guide prize from the Society for the Historical past of Authorship, Studying, and Publishing.
Caper additionally obtained vast reward for his ebook “Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Forgotten Historical past of an American Shrine” (2008), which restores the lives and contributions of African Individuals to the legacy of Mount Vernon and tells the exceptional historical past of Sarah Johnson, who spent greater than 50 years at Mount Vernon, in slavery and after emancipation.
“Casper lays naked the distinctive narrative of America’s first sacred shrine, capturing the dizzying complexity of an early American neighborhood largely unrecognized and misunderstood,” wrote Richard Horan for The Christian Science Monitor.
As an energetic public historian, Casper has been advisor to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a board member of the Maryland Humanities and the Better Baltimore Cultural Alliance, and was concerned in pre-collegiate historical past schooling main varied Okay-12 instructor schooling institutes and applications.
Throughout his tenure on the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences on the College of Maryland, he created the Heart for Social Science Scholarship and created each an undergraduate minor in public humanities and a grasp’s program in neighborhood management.
“One of many nice joys of my earlier position was turning into concerned within the cultural lifetime of Baltimore,” Casper mentioned.
“It is crucial to me that the American Antiquarian Society stays a part of the Worcester society.”
The Society is exclusive in that it’s each a nationwide establishment and one rooted in its neighborhood, Casper mentioned.
“I am trying ahead to being concerned with the (Worcester) cultural neighborhood. It is essential to assume about how the American Antiquarian Society will really feel like right here to each neighborhood in Worcester and we’ll be engaged on that.”
Again in Baltimore, Casper mentioned that as an AAS member, he had heard about Ellen Dunlap’s announcement that she deliberate to retire. Then a couple of 12 months in the past a search agency requested him if he can be all for turning into the following AAS president, he mentioned.
“I used to be lucky sufficient to obtain a suggestion in early June.”
The AAS Council unanimously elected Casper at a particular assembly on June 4 after a nationwide search. John Herron Jr., chair of the council and head of the search committee, mentioned, “After the extraordinarily profitable 28-year tenure of Ellen Dunlap, we’re thrilled that Scott Casper has agreed to change into the following president of the American Antiquarian Society …
“Our nation’s previous — each its promise and its contradictions — is as current as ever on this essential time in our nation’s civic life. As a scholar, administrator, mentor and extra, Scott is unusually nicely ready to additional leverage the Society’s lengthy standing dedication to evidence-based historical past and to preserving and sharing the tales of all Individuals as they’re recorded within the unparalleled collections of the American Antiquarian Society,” Herron mentioned.
Casper mentioned, “Now greater than ever, telling America’s advanced, contested tales is important, as are the collections that convey these histories to life. Working alongside the Society’s peerless workers, I’m delighted to advance this mission and prolong the AAS’s scholarly and public attain.”
Apart from analysis, the Society sponsors a broad vary of applications together with workshops, seminars, conferences, lectures and performances.
The COVID-19 pandemic has modified a lot of these in-person actions, however Casper mentioned the Society has been working quite a lot of applications on-line.
“So we’re maintaining with our program schedule, solely doing it nearly,” he mentioned. “We’re studying rather a lot from that course of.” Actually, new applied sciences are serving to to increase outreach and as such will likely be a part of “the brand new regular,” he mentioned.
As for employees, “We’re principally engaged on web site,” he mentioned. “Greater than 90 % are right here.”
There are a at the moment a small variety of researchers on the Society, however for now it stays closed to different researchers.
Casper, who’s single, got here throughout as if he is been having fun with his return journey right here to this point — this time scheduled to be for longer than 4 months.
“It has been marvelous. I sit up for the day I actually get to know Worcester. For now I am having fun with the outside. It is nice to be right here,” he mentioned.
How lengthy precisely? Dunlap was on the helm for 28 years. Casper famous that her predecessor, Marcus A. McCorison, was director/president for 25 years (and on the AAS for a complete of 32 years).
“I will likely be right here so long as the American Antiquarian Society can have me,” Casper mentioned.
“I do not know if it is going to be 28 years however I will likely be right here for the period. This can be a place that resonates with my values and keenness for American historical past.”