At Ephemera 24, the Society's annual conference
and fair held in Greenwich, Conn. in March 2004, Michael Ragsdale
displayed a small portion of his collection of ephemera associated
with the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Michael, a senior
technician for Audio Visual Services at Columbia University and
a cameraman for C-SPAN, is a new member of the Ephemera Society,
having learned about the organization through the Internet.
Michael's collection documents the aftermath of
the 9/11 tragedy in New York City through ephemera from that day
and later; in addition, he has related materials created earlier.
The Greenwich newspaper, Greenwich Time, ran a special
story about Ephemera 24, highlighting Michael's exhibition.
Michael Dinan, who reported, started his story by writing: "Michael
Ragsdale spotted a long line at the automatic teller machine as
he rushed through an uptown Manhattan hospital, where he had been
scheduled to film a routine press conference." Continuing,
he noted that it was September 11, 2001 and that "there were
hundreds of receipts on the ground and they said 'transaction
denied.'" It turned out that problems associated with
communications as a result of the destruction of the World Trade
Center prevented ATM banking transactions.
receipt that Michael picked up was the first piece of 9/11 ephemera
in his collection, which now numbers more than 3,000 items.
Michael found it relatively easy to collect.
Greenwich Time quoted him: "A lot of it is religious reactioncalls
for prayer, calls to God, or church brochures. For a long
time after 9/11, wherever I went I just looked for stuff, on and
off the job, throughout the five boroughs [of Manhattan] and Connecticut.
If there was a break from work, I would walk around the neighborhood
looking for ephemerain waiting rooms, hospitals, churches,
on street signs. There were so many people handing things
outactivists and religious people, especially for the first
In addition to the ATM receipt, Michael displayed
a broad range of ephemera. One especially interesting item
was connected to New York's primary elections. Michael Kearney,
a Democrat from Queens who was running for a seat on the local
Council, mailed a brochure to people living in his district reminding
them to vote. A document caught in the moment of time, the
primary had to be rescheduled from September 11th to later in
the month, on the 25th.
New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral, at 5th Avenue
and 50th Street, held a mass of supplication for people who lost
their lives in the attacks on September 17, and Michael showed
the program. Catholic Charities produced a disaster response
notice, and the state government of New York issued a brochure
that was featured in the exhibit, "Helping Children Cope
with Fear," addressing how to respond to children who had
been affected by tragedy, and Michael displayed both.
Personal memorabilia included Michael's receipt
for breakfast at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital on September 11th,
bearing a time stamp of 7:51 am, and a lunch receipt that day
from Café Cappuccino at 11:58 am.
Anyone interested in seeing a sampling of Michael's
collection can do so online at http://www.911digitalarchive.org,
which is an electronic archive of items relating to 9/11 in New
York City and Washington,DC. The web site is a cooperative
venture of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason
University and the American Social History Project at theGraduate
Center of the City University of New York. Partnering with
the Library of Congress, the American Red Cross Museum, and the
Smithsonian Institution, the Digital Archive includes still and
moving images, audio, documents, personal stories, a list of online
9/11 resources, and other materials in electronic format to "collect,
preserve, and present the history of the September 11, 2001 attacks."
Michael's section, including more than 900 examples,
is at http://www.911digitalarchive.org/collections/ragsdale_flyer_collection.
In the not too distant future, there are plans to add an additional
500 items. Visitors to the site can click on the titles
of ephemera to bring them to the screen or, if they have something
specific in mind, can do a word search to isolate either an item
or a group of items sharing the same description.
Michael anticipates that his collection will be
displayed in libraries and schools, especially in Manhattan. He
hopes that all of his ephemera will forever contribute to the
storytelling of the aftermath of 9/11 in and around New York City.
E. Richard McKinstry
PS: Congratulations to the Poster Stamp Society
for having such a successful meeting in St. Louis. Read all about
it in the April 2004 issue of The Poster Stamp Bulletin.