Ellen Dunlap

President, American Antiquarian Society

I also feel that when you’re responsible for a big organization and lots of people’s livelihoods depend on me and the success of this organization, I kind of have this responsibility not to wallow in any frustrations, shortcomings, or trials.  You just got to—you know a lot of people are counting on you.  And this institution is two hundred years old, and we have a lot of continuity to maintain, so it kind of puts whatever I’m going through in perspective, and I think that’s useful to get a grip on what are the big issues here, not the little ones.


Ellen Smith Dunlap was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1951.  She currently is President of the American Antiquarian Society [AAS] in Worcester, Massachusetts, an historical organization that was awarded the 2013 National Humanities Medal at a White House ceremony.  She married Art Dunlap, became widowed, and remarried Frank Armstrong.  They have a daughter named Libby Armstrong.  They moved to the Worcester area in 1992 and then relocated to West Boylston, Massachusetts.  Before moving she had lived in Waco, Texas and Lawrence, Kansas with her parents.  She then moved to Austin, Texas when she attended the University of Texas in Austin.  She later moved with her second husband and daughter to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where she lived until she came to live in Worcester.  Her first job was at the University of Texas Library of Aviation, which led to her job at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, and then to the American Antiquarian Society.  Ellen also shares her secret to getting a hug from two different presidents, President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, and what it is like to speak and sit next to two first ladies, Michelle Obama and Jacqueline Kennedy. 

Interview Date: 
November 7, 2014