Monday, June 22, 2009

Adams-Jefferson Conference Day 2

It's all Adams and Jefferson all the time for me, at least for the first part of this week. It's remarkably strange to be totally away from the computer for half a day or a full day at a time - makes one realize just how much one relies of it for things. News, email, Google Reader, even Twitter ... trying to catch up with all those things after eight or nine hours away from them is a daunting task. But well worth it today, after an absolutely top-notch full day of panel discussions, tours and other assorted events.

We began this morning at the BPL with a panel discussion on "Adams and Jefferson as Book Collectors," starring Beth Prindle, David Emblidge, and Kevin Hayes (with comments by Marcus McCorison). Each of them briefly recapped their papers (which you can read here), and then we had a wide-ranging discussion about the striking differences between the two men when it came to collecting (TJ was fairly particular, JA not so much), their acquisition habits, their motivations behind building libraries, &c.

Following the panel Beth and a colleague led tours of the BPL's McKim building and of the John Adams Library there at the library, and when the group reconvened at 2 we met at the MHS for a second panel discussion, "Libraries, Law, and Political Philosophy." David Konig, Gregg Lint, and Richard Bernstein each discussed their papers, and Mary Sarah Bilder delivered comments. Another very fascinating discussion ensued, about the ways in which legal thinking and writing shaped and was shaped by TJ, JA and their reading.

At 4 p.m. my colleagues and I made brief introductions to the Adams and Jefferson collections at the MHS (we have the largest Adams papers collection and one of the largest Jefferson collections), and then we unveiled the exhibition, which I think people seemed to enjoy quite well.

Tomorrow, panels on nationalism and the Enlightenment, which promise to be just as enthralling.

What's really remarkable to me about the conference, even beyond the good discussions, is having so many Adams and Jefferson scholars in the same room at the same time. It's a tremendous group of people, all of whom love to talk and share stories and experiences about their time spent studying Jefferson and Adams and their books. Where else could something like this happen? I'm sure I haven't managed to convey the fun of it all, but it's really a delight.