Report on Ephemera 21

[Photos 2, 3 and 4 are © Matthew R. Isenburg.

Ephemera 21 is history. The conference speakers greatly informed us, and at the fair, we were given the opportunity to upgrade and add to our collections of ephemera. The weekend of March 16-18, 2001 was truly memorable.

We scheduled six people to present papers at our conference. This year's talks were far ranging and included papers on Atlantic salmon fishing ephemera, how illustrations on rewards of merit cards influenced the design of Shaker inspirational drawings, the role paper ephemera plays in exhibitions at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, ephemera associated with miniature golf, and ephemera that Henry David Thoreau's would have personally known about.

In addition, Michael Twyman, compiler of the recently published Encyclopedia of Ephemera, offered his insights on the collecting and use of ephemera as we enter the new Millennium. Michael came to us after a week of teaching a course on ephemera at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and after Ephemera 21, he returned to his home base at the University of Reading in England, where he oversees the Centre for Ephemera Studies.

Our fair--open to the general public on Saturday, the 17th, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.--included 65 dealer members, each with is or her own special offerings. This year the society expanded its dealer pool by inviting vendors who had not exhibited before by offering them a special membership package. We look forward to their presence at future fairs after their initial participation at Ephemera 21. As in years past, society members received a 10% discount on entrance, as well as an opportunity for early admittance on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Over the years we have appreciated the support of our members from England and Canada who have exhibited their ephemera at the society's fairs, given talks, and otherwise taken part in our annual program. In an effort to make Ephemera 21 even more international, we organized a special exhibition package that was designed to draw greater participation from our non-American friends. Every member of the English and Canadian ephemera societies was contacted about Ephemera 21, either personally or through a special membership mailing, and we are thankful for their interest and for taking part this year.

For the first time, we offered an opportunity for members, as well as the general public, to bring parts of their collections to the fair for appraisal. Based on the popular public television program, "The Antiques Roadshow," we billed our program as "What's it Worth?" The public was invited to bring in their family papers, documents, and paper collectibles for appraisal on Saturday, the 17th, between noon and 4 p.m. Representatives from Swann Galleries, a New York City auction house that specializes in the sale of rare books, manuscripts, prints, and ephemera, were on hand to offer their evaluations. We also called upon society members and fair exhibitors for assistance.

We welcomed Light Impressions as our special sponsor of Ephemera 21. The firm, an archival supply house that sells products for collectors to use to house their ephemera and library collections, gave out special gift certificates along with its catalogs.

The special highlight of Ephemera 21 was our Cabaret. It was held on Saturday evening and featured Barbara Meyer Darlin and her program "Arsenic and Tight Lace: Beauty Secrets of La Belle Époque." The Cabaret began at 7:30 p.m. with a cash bar. Society members then enjoyed a wonderful buffet dinner followed by Barbara's show. At times, we may have wondered, but none of us is old enough to have experienced the lengths to which women would go to make themselves more beautiful. As a human paper doll, Barbara revealed her foremothers' secrets and demonstrated the laborious task of dressing in full evening attire for a ball, including all her undergarments and body shapers. What made her program so memorable was that she asked the audience for help with her laces and hooks as she got herself ready.

See you next year at Ephemera 22, time and place to be announced!

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

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

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America