Ephemera Journal X

The Journal has been issued every two years or so since 1987. In the beginning, society members who were interested in sharing information about ephemera looked forward to producing a publication devoted to both scholarly and popular discussions of the origins, production, uses, and study of ephemera.

Volume I, the first step, dealt with the origins of ephemera. Highly illustrated articles, many of which included color depictions, featured discussions of Reward of Merit cards, carrier addresses, trade cards, stickers, printer Louis Prang, and California orange crate labels. In addition, the first issue of Ephemera Journal contained a full color poster, entitled "This is Ephemera," tipped in at the beginning of the volume.

Volume X continues in the tradition established sixteen years ago with three informative articles.

Nicolas Ricketts, Ephemera Society vice president and curator at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, writes about collecting contemporary ephemera, something that engages his attention just about every day in his workplace.

The Strong Museum opened in 1982 with a first-rate collection of ephemera that documented the 19th century. Today the Strong Museum has more than 500,000 objects, including the world's largest and most historically significant collection of dolls and toys, America's most comprehensive collections of home crafts and souvenirs, and nationally important collections of home furnishings and advertising materials and ephemera.

Around 1990, the museum changed its focus, striving in part to provide its public with a link to more contemporary materials so that it could better understand the past by exploring the present.

Staff at the Strong began expanding its collecting activities, including building its ephemera holdings, to areas that would provide information about the consequences of progress, expressions of identity, and the rise of the middle class. As Nic summarizes it: "progress, identity, and class."

Recent exhibitions have had an impact on collection development. With such shows as "When Barbie Dates GI Joe: Toying with the Cold War," "Altered States: Alcohol and other Drugs in America," and "UnEarthing the Secret Life of Stuff: Americans and the Environment," museum staff needed to be on the lookout for items that would enhance their displays. In his article, Nic leads his readers through the marvels and importance of recently produced ephemeral items that have been acquired by the Strong Museum for these and other exhibits.

Surveying far different collections, Aneta Firlej-Buzon of the Institute of Library and Information Science, Wroclaw University, writes about collecting ephemera in Polish libraries. Her article offers definitions of the various types of Polish ephemera and discusses reasons for collecting it. Aneta also considers classification schemes used to organize collections. She concentrates her attention on the holdings of the Polish National Library and the eight largest university libraries in her country.

Aneta points out that staffs of Polish libraries have a rich heritage of collecting ephemera, beginning their efforts in the 1880s. Until recent times, however, there was only a handful of publications describing their collections, and one of them was her doctoral dissertation. She notes that the main purpose of assembling collections was and is to create a rich, complete, and reliable resource for studying the social life of her country.

Finally, Michael Twyman of the Centre for Ephemera Studies at Reading University in England and the editor of The Encyclopedia of Ephemera...offers "Chromolithography: The Legacy of [Old] Europe." Michael has written and lectured extensively, most notably in America at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, where he regularly offers a course on ephemera.

The theme of his article is how American chromolithography was influenced by its European forerunners, a topic that Michael somewhat modestly says is difficult to come to grips with. "The hope is that by writing about early chromolithography from a European standpoint it will be possible for others to piece together parts of the jigsaw from the American end."

Michael's thoughtful essay addresses many areas under such headings as "Problems of Terminology," "Early Chromolithographed Publications in Europe," "Chromolithography Comes of Age," " The Beginning of Chromolithography in America," and "The Golden Age of American Chromolithography."

The images in his article include European trade cards, a sheet music cover, a promotional calendar, several prints, and other illustrations.

Copies of Ephemera Journal X are sent to members of the Ephemera Society as a benefit of membership. If you are not a member they are available for $15.00 per copy. Articles are abstracted in America: History and Life, published by the American Bibliographical Center, Santa Barbara, California.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

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

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America