Ephemera Society of the UK 25th Anniversary Celebration, London

On Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11, 2000 the Ephemera Society of the United Kingdom celebrated its 25th anniversary. Called the "Millennium Project" by its organizers, festivities took place at the Hotel Russell in London.

To start things off on Saturday, Graeme Gordiner and Susan Watters of the Institute of Paper Conservation spoke to society members about the history of paper and how to care for paper ephemera.

Graeme summarized the development of paper making from its origins in China to modern times. He pointed out that demand for paper was low before the advent of the printing press and that when movable type became commonplace, paper production increased considerably. Because printers needed more paper than makers could provide using traditional manufacturing techniques, paper makers substituted wood pulp for rag as the primary component of their product. Today, papermaking is highly mechanized all over the world.

Susan then focused on the care and storage of paper ephemera. She explained that it was best for collectors to store what they had in acid free containers, perhaps encapsulated in an inert envelope of Mylar. Susan cautioned against the use of glue for repairs, suggested that graphite pencils be used for labeling, and urged members of the audience to consult paper and book conservators about the preservation needs of their collections.

Graeme and Susan distributed three pamphlets: a descriptive brochure on the Institute of Paper Conservation, "Guidelines for Conservation Framing of Works of Art on Paper," and "The Care and Repair of Paper Artefacts."

Following afternoon tea, John Grossman delivered the inaugural Maurice Rickards Memorial Lecture. John, from the United States and a member of the Ephemera Society of America, spoke about his collecting activities from the time he began in 1974. Among other items, John has built marvelous collections of Valentines, trade cards, postcards, perfume labels, paper dolls, and scrap albums. John led those present through a portion of his holdings, displaying colorful images and slides; discussed how he organizes what he has; talked about his reference library; and highlighted his conservation procedures and housing practices.

A working collection, John's assemblage of ephemera forms the basis of a business, The Gifted Line, which creates and markets products based on the images and designs found in his collection.

John concluded his presentation with a discussion of a most special group of items: cigar labels and art from the George Schlegel Company, 1874-1955. In addition to having a wonderful collection of Schlegel's labels, John also has the archival sample files of the company.

Saturday evening the society held a banquet in "The Library," of the Hotel Russell. Among those present were Ladies and Lords as well as the rank and file of membership, including the curator of the Wimbleton Lawn Tennis Museum, the supervisor of the John Johnson Collection of Ephemera at Oxford University's Bodleian Library, Canadian and American members, and collectors whose interests ranged far and wide. After dinner, Peter Jackson, president of the society, offered welcoming remarks, and Ralph Hyde, recently retired from the Guildhall Library and that evening's recipient of the Pepys Medal, acknowledged his well deserved award.

On Sunday, the society sponsored a fair at the Hotel Russell. About 80 dealers, English and American, exhibited a wide variety of goods. English television personality Jeremy Beadle, an acknowledged ephemerist, opened the fair with a few words.

The Centre for Ephemera Studies, located at the University of Reading, had a table at the fair chiefly to promote a book that will be published in September by the British Library and in the Americas by Routledge, The Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator and Historian. Written by the late Maurice Rickards, founder and chairman of the Ephemera Society of the UK, and edited by Michael Twyman, recently retired professor of typography and graphic communication at the University of Reading, this single volume will undoubtedly be the standard work on ephemera for generations to come.

E. Richard McKinstry

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

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