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.

The 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 SPNEA’s traveling panel show, "Pilgrims, Patriots, and Progress: Selling the Colonial Image," an exhibit that considers how American colonists have been portrayed through time.

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 society’s 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 and initiatives.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

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

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America