Viewing the AAS artifacts in their material form influenced the way I think about them as artifacts of the history of media and communications in three ways. As I looked at a letter from John Hancok to Isaiah Thomas, I noticed a tear on the portion folded to create an “envelope.” During this time, envelopes had not been invented yet, requiring a sender to fold the letter into a makeshift envelope and address the “front” of it. I noticed that he did not use up all the space of the paper for his letter and thought of the Starr book, which detailed how people would go to great lengths to use of every last square inch of that once rag linen. Hancock, however, could easily afford paper, as well as his recipients could afford the overpriced postage. After examining the letter, I considered media preservation, something I had never given any real thought to. The Colonial Williamsburg website reminded me we don’t have history if these types of historical artifacts are not preserved. The main page tells the story of how Thomas Jefferson preserved records from the Jamestown colony settlement of Virginia—the first successful English settlement in North America. The site documents that “for nearly five decades, Jefferson preserved and curated the documents he acquired, sharing them carefully and selectively with scholars publishing collections of Virginia’s statutes. The Library of Congress now tends them, the richest collection of Jamestown records in the country.” It is because of Jefferson’s diligence as an archivist that historians have this resource of primary documents. I feel that I had—through schooling—viewed learning about the past because of historians and scholars. However, we learn about the past through things people who lived before us left behind, which historians and scholars then examine and subsequently interpret. Seeing this item in its material form reminded me that it was like a photograph—a moment in time frozen for future scrutiny. School sometimes conditions us to look at these media artifacts as simply primary source documents: a certain quota we must meet to satisfy the rubrics of our professors. This letter illustrated the importance of the preservation of media artifacts, and the visit reminded me that media artifacts have an organic nature in their material form that is lost if not viewed in person. Media artifacts are visual and audio peeks into the everyday lives of past individuals that sometimes need no interpretation because it is clear what these individuals are conveying. Having the actual text or audio creates a more accurate historiography base.
The second and third ways seeing the artifacts in their material form influenced the way I think about them as artifacts of media and communications was in what I consider a medium and rethinking my perception of viewing media artifacts collectively. The 1876 Currier and Ives print The Progress of the Century depicted the new technologies developed during America’s industrial age: the railroad, the steamboat, the telegraph, and the steam-engine powered printing press. It was only after careful examination of the print, which features two communication mediums, that I realized I was looking at another medium—the print itself. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words, but I am usually so centered on text that I discard the power of images as mediums of communication. Mediums of communication can be categorized as either physical or mechanical. The print, as well as the poster from the American Letter Mail Company, is a mechanical form of media. The postal advertisement, for new offices in Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, is in essence one medium promoting another. The poster represents how the post was not in wide use because the postal reduction had not happened yet. Both the poster and the print influenced me because they made me reexamine how I often look at media artifacts as the sum of their parts without giving more consideration to them as parts of a larger whole that may tell a different story if viewed individually versus collectively. History is, of course, subject to interpretation, but the visit to AAS taught me that media and communications artifacts are special in they have the potential to remove the veil of historical interpretation and replace it with historical fact.
 John Hancock to Isaiah Thomas, December 2, 1786, Isaiah Thomas Papers, AAS.
 The Progress of the century (New York: Currier & Ives, 1876), facsimile.
 “American post office. : The American Letter Mail Company have established post offices in New-York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston,” (n.p., 1844).