West Coast Meetings in 2002
In September 2002, the Ephemera Society was involved
in two programs on the West Coast, the annual meeting of the American
Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and a regional
society meeting in California.
AASLH was established in 1904 as a department within the American
Historical Association; today it is a separate organization. Now,
nearly a century later, it provides services to more than 5,000
individuals and institutions that work in the field of state and
local history. The successes of its activities have been tested
and proven by time, and as the 21st century begins, it looks forward
to promoting "Pathways: Discovering Yourself Through History,"
a project designed for the general public to research various
aspects of American history. Among its publications is a series
of technical leaflets, some of which cover such topics of ephemera
as postcards, historical photographs, archival materials, and
local history manuscripts.
AASLH's 62nd annual meeting took place in Portland,
Oregon, September 25-28. Its theme was "The Many Faces of
History." Writing of it in promotional literature, meeting
organizers posed a thought-provoking question: "What do we
study and collect that reflects and interprets the past and how
has our approach changed over the years?" Of course, one
of the answers is ephemera.
On Thursday the 26th, at a morning session, Ephemera
Society members Ron Stegall and Nic Ricketts, society president
and vice president respectively, and Ken Turino, director of exhibitions
and programs at the Society for the Preservation of New England
Antiquities (SPNEA) in Boston, conducted a session entitled "The
World of Ephemera: Collecting the Transient Documents of Everyday
Life." Quoting from the conference program: "members
of the Ephemera Society of America, which was founded to promote
the preservation of ephemera and research about it, will share
their views on the following topics: the state of the world of
ephemera; guidelines for collecting and cataloguing ephemera;
the use of ephemera in exhibitions and the purposes of interpretation;
and the preservation and conservation of ephemera collections."
Ron Stegall spoke first, introducing ephemera and
showing both contemporary and historical examples. Nic Ricketts
then focused on the ephemera collection that he oversees as curator
at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, highlighting how
the Strong collects, preserves, and houses its holdings. Ken Turino
wrapped up, covering the exhibition of ephemera, paying special
attention to SPNEAs traveling panel show, "Pilgrims,
Patriots, and Progress: Selling the Colonial Image," an exhibit
that considers how American colonists have been portrayed through
It was standing room only. Individuals involved
with local history all have ephemera either in their personal
collections or where they work. Attesting to the widespread interest
in ephemera, all of the societys membership brochures were
taken from the exhibits hall. We look forward to welcoming many
new members as a result of the AASLH meeting.
Just a few days earlier on Saturday, September 21st,
the Ephemera Society held a regional meeting in Beverly Hills,
California. Society member Jay Last hosted the meeting, welcoming
a group of twenty-five, some of whom lived in the Los Angeles
area and others who traveled from as far away as the San Francisco
Bay area, Sacramento, and San Diego.
Jay is the author of several books on ephemera and
American art written with Gordon T. McClelland and published by
Hillcrest Press. Among them are Fruit Box Labels: A Collectors
Guide, published in 1983, and The California Style: California
Watercolor Artists, 1925-1955, issued in 1985.
Jay very graciously organized a display of a portion
of his collection, giving society members an opportunity to see
some wonderful examples of 19th century lithography, including
trade cards, cigar labels, posters, and illustrated books.
Society president Ron Stegall led a discussion on
the goals of the Ephemera Society. Specific topics included ways
to enhance the organization's Web site, increasing membership,
how to attract younger members, and discovering the areas of collecting
pursued by younger folks. In addition, the group talked about
why society dropouts leave and how they might be attracted back
to membership. Finally, the group talked about the possibility
of hosting a West Coast ephemera show, perhaps in conjunction
with an established book fair in the San Francisco area.
Many thanks are due to Ephemera Society officers
and members for participating in the AASLH conference and for
organizing and attending the regional meeting in California. Benefits
of Ephemera Society membership are now known to conference participants,
and as a result of the regional meeting, current members are more
convinced than ever about the importance of the society's goals
E. Richard McKinstry