The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Adams-Jefferson Conference Recap

Now that the Boston leg of the Adams-Jefferson Libraries conference has concluded (see my earlier post for the full story on the conference), I'd like to offer just a brief synopsis of the proceedings here, and some personal reflections on the meetings.

Following a really fascinating keynote address by Ted Widmer on Sunday evening ("People of the Book: Adams, Jefferson and the Koran"), we had two days of panel discussions ("Adams and Jefferson as Book Collectors" and "Libraries, Law, and Political Philosophy" on Monday; "Adams, Jefferson, and Nationalism" and "Libraries and the Enlightenment" on Tuesday). Most of the sessions were held at the Boston Public Library, with the exception of Monday afternoon's panel, which we hosted here at the MHS. Conference-goers were also offered tours of the John Adams library at the BPL, the "Gluttons for Books" exhibit at MHS, and the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy.

Thanks to the kindness of my colleagues here I was able to slip away from my normal duties for a couple days and attend the panel discussions. The presentations and conversations were excellent, but even beyond that it was most interesting to be around a great group of folks interested not only in Adams and Jefferson but also in books and reading more generally. I was, as someone remarked to me, "in my element." The days may have been long, (and rainy), but the stimulation of good discussions more than outweighed the exhaustion.

The conference attracted attendees from around the country and around the world (one woman came all the way from Perth, Australia!), so it was a real delight to be able to meet, talk and share meals with people whose books I've read (and I confess I added a number of new books to my 'to-read' list). Many of them expressed great appreciation for the MHS and our efforts to make our materials available not only here in the reading room but also via microfilm and digitally so that they can be accessed around the world.

Now the conference moves to Charlottesville for another three days of discussions and tours. I hope that they are as full of good discussions and provocative questions as the Boston portion was, and I look forward to continuing the conversations begun here this week.

permalink | Published: Wednesday, 24 June, 2009, 11:03 AM