Ephemera 23 Conference

The Ephemera Society's annual conference and fair takes place Friday, March 14-Sunday March 16, 2003 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Greenwich, Connecticut. In addition to the fair, which features 80 dealers, plus a Saturday evening buffet and auction, and other activities, the festivities of the weekend include six talks in the hotel’s Roundhill Room on the study and appreciation of ephemera.

The program begins at 9:30 a.m. on Friday with a presentation by Matthew R. Isenburg entitled "Photographic Ephemera." Today, some of the most prized pieces of ephemera relate to photographica, especially from the early nineteenth century. Matthew's presentation offers a glimpse into his holdings of daguerreotypes and other images, cameras, and equipment, one of the largest collections in private hands.

A veteran of World War II and a graduate of Northeastern University, majoring in American history, Matthew co-authored a book, Photographica, in 1978 that chronicled the development of the camera. In 1989, he co-founded the Daguerreian Society.

The second Friday morning presentation is called "A 'Double Feature' on Reproduction History," by Peter Jackson and Valerie Jackson Harris. Peter and Valerie will illustrate embossing and printing reproduction methods from woodcuts to lithography, examining techniques and clarifying differences, and train those present on how to identify the various techniques used to produce their own prints.

In September 2003, Peter received the Pepys Medal, the highest recognition that the English ephemera society offers. A trustee of the Foundation for Ephemera Studies and former chairman of the English society, Peter is, among other things, an accomplished author, broadcaster, journalist, and taxidermist. Valerie, a long-term participant in activities of both the English and American ephemera societies, is the proprietor of Quadrille, a shop on Portobello Road in London, specializing in ephemera and other collectibles.

Following a break for lunch, Robert Volz begins the afternoon part of the program at 1:30 with a talk called "Hooked on Ephemera: History 101 from the Real World, or Why Academic Institutions Collect Ephemera." Educating students of the twenty-first century, who have been bombarded with many and varied media experiences, is challenging. Using highly visual resources, such as historical paper ephemera, brings history to life for them. Robert, Custodian of the Chapin Library at Williams College, will draw upon the collections of ephemera that he oversees which enliven classroom presentations.

Robert Volz has enjoyed a forty-year career at Williams, Bowdoin College, and the University of Rochester. Personally, he collects Chicago music ephemera—as he says "from punk bands to Orchestra Hall"—to complement his collection of Chicago music recordings.

Winding up Friday's talks is Barbara Rusch, whose topic is "Ephemera Tales: Touchstones to the Past." Every artifact, including paper ephemera, retains its own imprint—its unique historical and sensory DNA—which dedicated collectors and researchers read to extract information. Printed and handwritten ephemera from other times offer glimpses into the popular culture of our forebears and provide tribute to their lives. Barbara will offer such glimpses through the readings of selected examples of ephemera.

Barbara Rusch has collected nineteenth century ephemera for more than twenty years. Founder of the Ephemera Society of Canada in 1987 and still serving as its president, Barbara edits Ephemera Canada and writes, lectures, and curates exhibitions on ephemera. In 1989, she received the Rickards Award from the American ephemera society and in 1992, the Pepys Medal from the British society.

On Sunday, Anthony M. Sammarco begins the conference session at 8:30 a.m. with "S.S. Pierce: Nineteenth Century Gourmand." S.S. Pierce & Co. is known throughout the United States for its gourmet foods and liquors, having originally been established by Samuel Stillman Pierce in Boston in 1831 as a corner grocery store. Anthony traces the development of the firm through its ephemera.

Known for his writings on the history of Boston, Anthony has built impressive ephemera collections on the Baker Chocolate Co., the city of Boston, as well as S.S. Pierce. He serves as an officer in the New England chapter of the Victorian Society and teaches history at the Urban College of Boston.

The final speaker, Elvin Montgomery, follows with "African American Ephemera." Interest in African American history has grown over the years and collecting artifacts and ephemera associated with it is booming. Elvin will lead conference attendees on a fascinating journey that highlights many examples of African American ephemera.

A management consultant, author, and avid collector, Elvin Montgomery maintains a large private research and reference collection of African American ephemera that has grown from his undergraduate days at Harvard and graduate school years at Columbia to today. Each February he organizes a Black History Month antiques and collectibles show in New York City.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

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

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America