Report on Ephemera 23

From March 14-16, 2003, the Ephemera Society held Ephemera 23, its annual conference and fair; and, on the 13th, the Board of Directors had its annual day-long meeting. The society once again enjoyed the hospitality and ambiance of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Greenwich, Connecticut.

On Friday, there were four papers on a variety of topics, including "Photographic Ephemera," by collector Matthew Isenberg; "Hooked on Ephemera: History 101 from the Real World, or Why Academic Institutions Collect Ephemera," by Robert Volz, who works at the Chapin Library at Williams College; "Ephemera Tales: Touchstones to the Past" by Barbara Rusch, president of the Ephemera Society of Canada; and "John H. Starin's Glen Island Resort: Marketing the Victorian Middle Class," by Michael Zmuda.

Sunday morning, Anthony M. Sammarco delivered a talk entitled "S.S. Pierce: Nineteenth Century Gourmand," and Elvin Montgomery followed with "African American Ephemera."

For the first time, the presentations were videotaped. Stay tuned for particulars about availability and ordering instructions.

This year the society gave its Maurice Rickards Award to Peter Jackson and Valerie Jackson Harris. The Rickards Award is the highest honor the society bestows, and past winners have included dealers, collectors, and library and museum professionals who have distinguished themselves in the world of ephemera. Peter, a native of England and best known for his collection of London ephemera, also holds the Pepys Medal, the highest recognition of the English ephemera society. He is a trustee of the Foundation for Ephemera Studies, former chair of the Ephemera Society of England, and an accomplished author and broadcaster. His wife, Valerie, is the proprietor of Quadrille, a well known business on Portobello Road, London, that specializes in ephemera and other collectibles.

The society also recognized Jean Berg with a special appreciation award for her many years of service to the Ephemera Society and for her tireless promotion of ephemera collecting as a dealer.

The society's auction, held Saturday evening after a buffet dinner and awards presentations, featured 163 lots. Gary Garland of Swann Galleries presided. Thanks to the generosity of society members who donated items and their time to the auction and those in the audience who placed bids, the society raised more than $5,000 to support its education programs.

Over the years the society has staged exhibits at its annual conference and fair, and Ephemera 23 was no exception. Shows included "Adirondack Hotels," curated by Arthur Groten, "Rare American Magazines," by Steven Lomazow, and "Dance: the Universal Language," by Bonnie Singer. Elvin Montgomery and Barbara Rusch did double duty, adding to their contributions as speakers by organizing exhibits; Elvin's was called "A Sampling of Afro-American Ephemera," and Barbara's was "Goddesses and Whores."

John and Tina Bruno, owners of Flamingo Promotions and promoters of the society's fair, wrote about it in advance, saying "The Finest Internationally Prominent Purveyors of Vintage Paper & Ephemera from around the world will gather in the Grand Ballroom of this four star hotel [the Greenwich Hyatt Regency] to offer the discerning collector the rarest merchandise, the select find and the absolute best in the world of Ephemera. Do not miss this one!" The Brunos were right. Seventy dealers showed their wares, and for the first time in recent memory, there was a waiting list of vendors, hoping to take part.

In addition, the weekend featured a session of evaluations on Sunday afternoon, where anyone coming to Ephemera 23 could have their collections appraised. And, there was a collector's forum, organized by society vice president Nicolas Ricketts, and a special discussion about trade cards.

The board reinforced its many commitments to the society's programs. Board members, among other things, pledged to work on expanding the regional presence of the society by conducting local meetings in various parts of the country; discussed a redesign of the society's web site, which attracts many new members, to make it even more attractive and informative; recognized the need to recruit corporate supporters; and committed themselves to fostering growth by seeking a higher level of donations and grant support and by endorsing a special initiative, "Each One Reach One," to encourage every society member to recruit one new member between now and 2005.

Ephemera 24 will take place next year at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich, March 19-21, 2004. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

[This article originally appeared in the Northeast Journal of Antiques & Art.]

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