Telling 17th Century New England Stories Through the Archives

Artists can often provide a unique perspective on our understanding of the past, moving beyond an intellectual understanding of the facts and their meanings to an exploration of sensations and emotions. As we commemorate two significant anniversaries—that of the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 and the start of our own Creative and Performing Artists and Writers Fellowship program in 1995—we have asked three artists, all of whom have created works exploring life in seventeenth-century New England from varying perspectives, to discuss their work, their creative processes, and their experiences conducting research in the archives. Click here for a video of the presentation

(Above) American Antiquarian Society Vice-president for Programs and Outreach, James David Moran, moderates the 75-minute YouTube presentation while Director of Outreach, Kayla Hooper, manages the session for viewers. Click here for a description of the presenters.

During her July 2020 fellowship at AAS, Diane Glancy wrote “New England Indians,” a section of Quadrille, a book about the intersection of Native history and Christianity. The 1663 Indian Bible was the first Bible published in America. The Reverend John Eliot worked for fourteen years translating the sixty-six books of the Bible into Algonquian with the help of four Native men. . . “What was it like?”— is the question which began her research and creative process.

Annie Bissett discusses two historically based projects. The first is We Are Pilgrims, a series of fifteen woodblock prints centering on the lives of the earliest colonial settlers of New England. The second project, Almanack, is an in-progress exploration of early American almanacs and science books that Bissett studied during her 2015 fellowship at AAS.

During her 2018 fellowship at AAS, TaraShea Nesbit conducted research for her second novel, Beheld, which reframes the story of the Pilgrims in the voices of two women of very different status and means.  In this novel Nesbit evokes a vivid, ominous Plymouth, populated by famous and unknown characters alike, each with conflicting desires and questionable behavior.