#hamildays: A Hamilton-Inspired Journey Through the Stacks

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Here at the American Antiquarian Society, we are passionate about American history. We work with significant printed, bound, drawn, and written materials every day, ranging from letters crafted by leading historical figures to ephemeral items like tickets and menus to books owned and read by children. We appreciate the often poignant and meaningful stories these items can tell about the nation’s past. We are proud of our work, and, in 2014, we were awarded the National Humanities Medal for our role in “safeguarding the American story.”

So, when someone else tells a good story based on American historical events, we tend to get excited about it! Such was the case when composer and Broadway performer Lin-Manuel Miranda launched his smash Broadway show Hamilton: An American Musical in 2015. For months after the show opened on Broadway, the musical theater fans on the staff talked obsessively about the soundtrack, the biography of American founding father Alexander Hamilton (a hero of Yorktown, the first Secretary of the Treasury, coauthor of the Federalist Papers), the use of quotations from historical documents sprinkled throughout the lyrics, and, alas, the near impossibility of landing tickets to a performance.

What follows is the story of one AAS Hamilton fan, Amy Tims, our project cataloger, who recently used the social media platform Instagram as a method to link material in the AAS stacks with the lyrics and structure of Hamilton: An American Musical. Instagram is a visual photo-sharing platform that lends itself to creating series of posts on single subjects over time. Amy used Instagram to match each song on the soundtrack with historic material at AAS. She tagged each of her posts #hamildays, allowing Instagram users to find all of her posts grouped together in one place. Of course, not everyone is on Instagram, and social media indexing is not always the most stable. Being the librarians that we are, we wondered if it would be possible to archive the series, and so, with some brainstorming by AAS staff, a new type of online resource was born: the #AASInstaArchive you see here. AAS has gathered all of Amy’s Hamilton posts in one place to create our first permanent gallery of Instagram posts. The result is a unique visual and textual presentation and perspective on storytelling with both theater and American history at its core. Enjoy!

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