Student Ambassadors Present their Work at American Independence Museum

September 28, 2018

By Alexis Soucy

In February 2018, two Saint Anselm College students curated an exhibit about George Washington’s presidency based on the archives at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP). On September 27, the Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassadors, Sarah Hummel ’19 and Matthew Solomon ’20, had the opportunity to present their work at a “Tavern Talk” at the American Independence Museum in Exeter, N.H.

Co-curators, Hummel, a history major, and Solomon, a politics and international relations double major, opened their exhibit, "The American Precedents: George Washington's Precedents in the Modern American Presidency," last Presidents’ Day. They examined five seminal precedents established by America's first president, George Washington: the Presidential Inauguration, foreign relations, nonpartisanship, the establishment of a Cabinet, and a role in economic policy.

Hummel and Solomon explained how George Washington established each precedent, and how they are still applied to the presidency today. Their exhibit and subsequent talk focused on precedents in the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations.

“We decided to use this one historical occurrence, the establishment of the precedent under Washington, as a lens through which to view a timeless political motif,” said Hummel. “We’re talking about partisanship, about campaigning, about reaching constituencies, so as we take this frame of mind and we apply it to different things in our archives, we can find that there are a lot of timeless themes.”

Solomon shared that the inspiration for their exhibit came from a series of spring events about George Washington at the NHIOP. “We saw three people talking from different perspectives, and that’s very hard for people to get a grasp on,” he explained. “This inspired our decision to choose George Washington, and to choose a presentation that would showcase his precedents based off what he said and how that influenced the actions of other presidents.”

Hummel ended the Tavern Talk by describing the team’s careful curation and display processes. “The main goal of each exhibit is really to foster discussion and engage an audience,” she said.

A public history class project sparked Hummel’s interest in the NHIOP’s archives, and she officially began working as a curator last October. Solomon began as an assistant at the NHIOP before co-curating with Hummel.

Following “The American Precedents” exhibit, the two created “Our First Lady” in honor of the late First Lady Barbara Bush. Coming soon, the next exhibit of their rotation will feature “American Ideals” with a tribute to the late U.S. Senator John McCain.