Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Guest post by Gregory Toth: The Printed Ephemera Collection in the Caird Library, National Maritime Museum

Following on from my previous post about the ocean liner exhibition at the Musée de l'Imprimerie in Lyon, I am delighted to present a guest blog from Gregory Toth outlining the ephemera collections at the National Maritime Museum, a selection of which I saw earlier this month during a visit arranged by The Ephemera Society.

The Caird Library’s printed ephemera collection comprises chiefly of non-book printed items published for transient publicity, informational purposes or commemorating a service, event, person or an object. As this can include items such as brochures, calendars, itineraries, menus, programmes, tickets and timetables, the collection is extremely rich and varied in individual pieces. These items are usually (but not always) produced by the organization or company that is the subject of the item rather than by an individual who is external to the theme of the publication.

(C) National Maritime Museum
The collection covers a variety of subjects but is particularly strong in the area of merchant shipping companies, which comprise 75 – 80 per cent of the whole. Its strong focus on twentieth century merchant shipping, and with a particular emphasis on passenger cruises, the collection is possibly one of the largest in the world. Most of the items are published after 1850, with the vast majority of them in the twentieth century. It offers some areas of cross-over between the Library’s own holdings and those of other departments within the National Maritime Museum.  It overlaps in many respects with the Archive collections, which can include ephemeral items: for example a timetable included in the records of a shipping company remains with that company’s archive. 

Groups attracted to study it include family, social, art and maritime historians. The collection not only has strong potential for academic research, as both evidence of the shipping industry and the growth of cruising as leisure activities, but ephemera can also be studied as a visual form in its own right. For example, it can be used by researchers who are investigating the development of print advertising, or the design of on-board publications and programmes. Moreover, the highly visual nature of the collection makes it particularly suitable for exhibitions and displays, as it can assist with interpretation. Displays and blog posts have already benefited from the visual qualities, and the collection also has uses for the Museum’s Learning and Interpretation programmes as an accessible area of maritime experience. 

(C) National Maritime Museum

Readers are encouraged to explore the NMM’s website or search the Library’s onlinecatalogue.

Gregory Toth
Librarian, Acquisitions and Cataloguing