Friday 21 December 2012

Postcard exhibition in Boston

(C) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Many thanks to John Sayers for alerting me to the exhibition The Postcard Age at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which runs until April 14 2013. Although sadly I won't see the exhibition itself, there are screen shots of it online, and I am very much looking forward to reading the accompanying book The Postcard Age by Linda Klich and Benjamin Weiss, which we now have in the Bodleian Library.

The exhibition is a taster of the 100,000 postcards which Leonard A. Lauder (son of Estée) is gradually giving to the Museum. The cards are arranged by themes such as urban life, the changing role of women, sports, celebrity, new technologies, art nouveau and WWI. 

There is an online slideshow of 10 cards from the exhibition and you can send a virtual postcard from the exhibition. I particularly like the moving images of the display (together with the other current exhibitions), which can be seen from the museum's home page.  Postcards, by virtue of their size, present challenges for display and it is good to see how the museum has approached these.

An online article from the New Yorker, The pleasures of postcards gives the background to Lauder's passion for postcards as miniature works of art.  Other online articles are Wild cards (New York Times), MFA exhibit showcases postcard marvels (Boston Post) and Cards to write home about (Wall Street Journal).

Japanese postcards from the MFA's website:

Nearly 22,000 Japanese postcards from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection are already at the museum and can be seen online (most with images).

 This is a serious postcard collection, acquired over many years and representing the height of the postcard craze from the 1900s to the beginning of the First World War.  Leonard A. Lauder has collected the jewels of this age, internationally.  It is a pleasure to see these cards given the status of a museum collection, with a dedicated exhibition, and elucidated in a scholarly volume.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Australasian Ephemera - Part 2: Australia. Guest post by Anthony Tedeschi

Very many thanks to Anthony Tedeschi for his second post about Australasian ephemera and to Richard Overell of Monash University for supplying images from their collections. Anthony's own blog: Antipodean Footnotes gives fascinating insights into rare books and special collections in New Zealand and Australia.

Australasian Ephemera Collections – Part 2: Australia

Following on from my guest post in October on New Zealand ephemera collections, the second of this two-part post highlights some of the ephemera collections held by Australian institutions. Like the New Zealand post it is hoped additions will be made by way of comments.

For details on the various subject categories collected, it is suggested interested readers consult each institution’s on-line catalogue (subject search ‘ephemera’). A Directory of Australian Ephemera Collections was published by the State Library of New South Wales in 1992. An Index, compiled by the State Library of Victoria, was published the following year.

(C) Monash University: special collections

The AIATSIS began collecting ephemera in the 1970s. Starting out with a focus on print material, the collection has grown to include non-paper items, such as badges, t-shirts, and tea towels. The largest sequence in the collection is comprised of invitations to openings of Indigenous art exhibitions from across Australia.

A PDF summary of the collection and index to the ephemera categories is available (see link above).

The AWM finding aids page includes links to multiple guides from aerial photographs and card, certificates and leaflets, to private records and film and sound. Though many of the guides pertain to ephemeral material, such as the Guide to the Cigarette & Trade Card Collection, under the specifically named ‘Ephemera (includes cards, certificates, leaflets, postcards and souvenirs)’ heading are listed: British Commonwealth Occupation Force Souvenirs Collection, Souvenirs 15, the Korean Collection, the Vietnam Collection, the Gulf War Collection, the East Timor Collection, the Iraq 2003 Collection, and the Afghanistan Collection.

Monash University Library 

(C) Monash University: special collections

Monash University special collections have been acquiring ephemera since the 1990s. Material in the collection dates from late seventeenth-century English pamphlets and broadsides to current menus, games, souvenirs, posters, flyers, cards, and junk mail. In 2011, the library hosted an exhibition called Ephemera, with a catalogue (PDF) and on-line version providing an overview of its rich holdings.

The Monash collection featured on the John Johnson Collection’s Ephemera Resources blog on 6 February 2012.

(C) Monash University: special collections

Australia’s national library has been collecting ephemera relevant to the nation since the 1960s. The Australian ephemera is indexed and divided into seven themes by subject: Australian performing arts programmes and ephemera (PROMPT), formed collections, general ephemera, geography and travel, programmes and invitations, scrapbooks, and trade catalogues. While the NLA collects widely, it aims to acquire as much Federal election campaign material and material relating to national events as possible. In 2007, the NLA received the oldest example of Australian printing – the 1796 ‘Jane Shore playbill’ – as a gift from the Canadian government.

The NLA maintains a General Ephemera Collection Thesaurus (PDF). Readers might also be interested in the Library’s database Trove, which includes a number of ephemera related resources and collections listed among its contents from across Australia, some of which, such as the Federation Ephemera at the State Library of New South Wales project, are freely available on-line.

Visitors can browse the ephemera collection and read the Library’s ephemera collection development policy. The Library’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ blog has also recently added two posts on ‘canvassing election ephemera in the Pacific’ (Part 1 and Part 2).

Between the Mitchell and State Reference libraries, the SLNSW holds a diverse collection of ephemera, which includes some of the earliest examples in Australia. Among the individual pieces highlighted on the Library’s website are: a 1612 Dutch translation of the de Quiros pamphlet, which contains the earliest printed reference to the word ‘Australia’, a broadside ca. 1789 describing a wild man or monstrous plant brought from Botany Bay, a playbill dated 8 March 1800, propaganda leaflets dropped by a Turkish aeroplane at Gallipoli during World War I, and an album of invitations, menus and other ephemeral printing related to the Inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

Among the subjects highlighted on-line are collections related to Qantas airline, which includes material from the 1920s to the present day, and on horse racing.

The John Oxley Library of the State Library of Queensland notes calendars, elections, exhibitions and festivals, invitations, menus, royalty and royal visits, sport, and trade programmes among the categories of material which it collections. The strongest sequence in the collection is the Library’s theatre programmes, which date from 1866 to the present day.

The John Oxley Library blog uploaded two helpful posts (available on the same page) describing its theatre ephemera and how to search the ephemera collection in the Library catalogue.

Material in the State Library of South Australia’s ephemera collection dates from 1836 onwards, and includes material similar in nature to many other institutions, from badges and business cards, to greeting cards and sheet music. The library, however, also holds a unique collection of wine labels. Collected since 1972, there are approximately 10,000 labels in the collection, reflecting the state’s connection to the Australian wine industry. A description of the collection can be found on the ephemera guide page (see link above), and two hundred and fifty labels have been digitised and are available through the Library’s Wine Literature of the World website.

Centred on ‘Victoria and Victorians’, but including material from across the country as well, the State Library of Victoria holds one of the largest ephemera collections in Australia. Material dates from the 1850s onwards. In addition to the types of ephemeral material held by other institutions, the SLVA is busy building a collection of local zines to document Melbourne’s thriving art and music scenes.

Three of the library’s major ephemera collections – advertising, political ephemera, and theatre programmes – have individual descriptions. Some examples from the Library’s ephemera collection have been digitised, such as the fan-shaped programme for the play School for Scandal (Melbourne, 1869) and the 1935 Myer Mail Order Shoppers’ Guide for Autumn & Winter. There is also a research guide to the Library’s Political Ephemera Poster Collection. A number of the posters have also been digitised and are available on-line.

The SLWA ephemera collection numbers over 100,000 items. The library maintains a selection of highlights from its ephemera collection on topics such as ships and shipwrecks in Western Australia, royal visits, firms and businesses, the Festival of Perth, and a collection of tombstone inscriptions gathered from Western Australian cemeteries. There is also a page dedicated to finding Indigenous ephemera.

University of Queensland
While I could not find a general summary of its ephemera collection, the University of Queensland Fryer Library has highlighted some aspects of the collection, such as political ephemera and material marking Queensland statehood, as part of its Treasure of the Month on-line exhibition series.

Part of the Sir George Grey Special Collections, the ACL Ephemera Collection includes material from the 1840s onwards divided into three distinct collections: the Old Colonists’ Museum Collection (material on Auckland’s colonial period given to the library when the OCM closed in the 1950s), the Freida Dickens Programme Collection (music, dance and theatre programmes, 1911-1976), and the New Zealand Ephemera Collection, which is divided into two sequences based on type and subject matter respectively (material includes menus, tickets, advertising flyers, cards and calendars).

The library maintains a searchable ephemera index database.


Wishing everyone Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year from the Antipodes!

[Guest post by Anthony Tedeschi, Rare Books Librarian, Dunedin City Library]

Monday 17 December 2012

Victorian Popular Culture (Adam Matthew)

Victorian Popular Culture, published by Adam Matthew Digital, is a subscription-only resource, which is available here at the Bodleian Library, through SOLO and OxLIP+ and in many other research libraries.  It perfectly complements the Entertainment section of ProQuest's The John Johnson Collection: an archive of printed ephemera. Its main sections are Music hall, theatre and popular entertainment; Circuses, sideshows and freaks; Moving pictures, optical entertainments and the advent of cinema; and Spiritualism, sensation and magic.

Although, as the title implies, largely based on the Victorian era, there is one item dating back to the16th century, four from the 17th and a large number from the 18th and 20th centuries.

The material is from:
The Harry Price Library of Magical Literature, Senate House, University of London
Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin
National Fairground Archives, University of Sheffield (see my last post)
The National Archives (UK)
Chetham's Library, Manchester
May Moore Duprez Archives
The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, University of Exeter
BFI National Archive

Features include full-text searching, a chronological timeline, essays, secondary resources, slide shows, innovative 360 degree technologies, audio files from Saydisc records and video clips.

(C) Adam Matthew Digital
It is always a pleasure to be able to cross-search collections, especially such rich ones. There are the usual search and advance search options and also browsable lists by title, author, date and type of material.  A symbol indicates which section of the project the material is from (e.g  the card symbol above for Spiritualism, sensation and magic). Although books, diaries, correspondence, journals, etc  are included, the substance of the project is ephemera. 

This is an indispensable resource for Entertainment historians.

Thursday 13 December 2012

The National Fairground Archive

The National Fairground Archive at the University Library, University of Sheffield, under the leadership of Professor Vanessa Toulmin, has holdings which document fairs, circuses, menageries, magic, optical shows, etc. A subject list gives the scope of the collection, which includes 4,500 books, 250 journals titles, moving images, photographs, drawings, audio material, correspondence, diaries, cuttings, account books, maps, charts, plans, teaching materials, notebooks etc, as well as ephemera: postcards, trade and advertising material, programmes, calendars, almanacs, posters, proclamations, and 20,000 posters and handbills. There are word processed indexes (currently under revision) to each of these genres.

(C) NFA, University of Sheffield
The site includes articles, bibliographies and links to other websites and resources.

Researchers can visit in person, without an appointment Monday to Wednesday, with an appointment on Thursday.  Opening hours are posted online.

The National Fairground Archive has just launched NFA digital, with images added weekly. 19,720 images are currently online  and these can be browsed or searched by collection, period, subject, place and name. The Search tips, especially the explanations of themes and subject terms, are very helpful.

You can follow the National Fairground item on Twitter: @professorvaness

The subscription site: Victorian Popular Culture (Adam Matthew) which will be covered more thoroughly in my next post, includes material from the National Fairground Archive

(C) NFA, University of Sheffield

Thursday 6 December 2012

The Circus Museum, NL

(C) Circus Museum nl
More ephemera from Holland.

The Circus Museum, NL is a superb site, with a wealth of imagery. There are both Dutch and English versions.  The Foundation (housed at the Teyler Museum, Haarlem) contains the collection of Jaap Best augmented (during his lifetime) by the archives of the German acrobat and circus collector Erdwin Schirmer. This consisted largely of 3,500 chromolithographed posters of Adolph Friedländer.

Online are 8,000 posters, and 7,000 circus photographs and postcards.  Reproductions can be bought for most of them but the zoomable images are ideal for research.  Although predominantly Dutch and German, the collection is truly international, as the scroll-bar list of towns in advanced search reveals.

Searchable fields in Advanced search are Circus, Person, Designer/Photographer, Lithographer, Place, Date range and Material type, and keywords (which can be searched in English: clown, elephant, horse etc).

There is a very useful feature in Simple search: each of the main categories (Acrobatics, Animals, Clowns, Dance, Ethnographic shows, Fairgrounds, Folklore, Freaks, Jugglers, Musicians, Music and Theatre) can be further refined by its own subcategories through a second scroll-bar (e.g  Acrobats, stilt-walkers).

A very effective site, which enables complex searches of its superb collections with the minimum of fuss.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Board games and Advertising in the Netherlands

My thanks to Prof Adrian Seville for alerting me to these two sites: HONG and Reclame Arsenaal


HONG (Historisch Overzicht Nederlandse Gezelschapsspellen) is a historical survey of Dutch games, the website of Rob van Linden. It can be browsed by publisher, title, and themes (cars, planes, boats, trains, sports, Disney, music etc). There is also simple and advanced searching (Uitgrebrieder zoeken).

Each entry typically has several digital images, showing the packaging (where applicable), contents and sometimes details, but not (for later games at least) necessarily each separate card or element of the game.  Many board games are commentated. There is a very useful table giving the chronology of games publishers and their relationship with each other.

Since I have to confess to an almost total ignorance both of Dutch games and language, I found date a rewarding way to search this impressive resource, it then becoming possible to make comparisions with British games. This is best done through the advanced screen. Entering 1700-1800 gave me 36 fascinating results. The major focus of the site is games dating from 1861-1999.

Krygs spel, 1710 Photo (C) Luigi Ciompi. The game is held
at the Openluchtmuseum
As in the case of the earliest game: the  Krygs Spel (left), many images (of the Game of the goose and other games) come from the Gioci dell'Oca website and from the Fred Horn Goose games at the Flemish Games archive, KHBO University in Bruges (a collection of 25,000 games housed in the Faculty of Education and Teacher Training, with its main focus "the integration of board games in early childhood, primary and secondary teaching"). Others come from Dutch museums (notably the Speelgoedmuseum Deventer)  and libraries, including the Reclame Arsenaal.  Each game is also cross-referenced to variant titles (where applicable) and to relevant reference works.


(C) Reclame Arsenaal nl. (Home page)

The Reclame Arsenaal is the result of a merger in 2001 of the Nederlands Reclameachief (Dutch Advertising Archive), founded in 1981, and the Nederlands Reclame Museum (Dutch Advertising Museum), founded in 1975.

Again, a command of Dutch would be a distinct advantage, but there is much to explore: a searchable database, virtual museum, online exhibitions, etc. The material is divided into Advertisements, Posters, Small printed works (leaflet, calendars, etc.) and Varia (works in other media such as textiles, enamel) and dates back to 1870. For purposes of the virtual tour, online museum, etc the works are divided into periods: 1870-1915, 1915-1930, 1930-1940, 1940-1945, 1945-1960, 1960-1975, 1975-1990, 1990-2002. A nice, quirky touch is a street image for each period, showing the Reclame Arsenaal material as if displayed on billboards, etc. Mousing over one of these items turns it into colour, while clicking brings up a pop-up box with caption and link to the main object description. Each period is accompanied by digest of Dutch history.

The searchable database offers simple and advanced searching. My simple search for Chocolade brought up 21 items, all with thumbnails which click through to records with larger images.  Advanced searching enables the user to restrict results to type of object, collection (other collections, e.g. Decaux can be searched through this database) and date. There is Boolean searching. The collection includes games (a search for spel) yields 80 results.

There are also multimedia online exhibitions, for Persil and Packaging for example.

Both sites offer interesting ways to compare Dutch culture with our own, either chronologically, or through Dutch versions of familiar games or advertising of international products, as well as presenting Dutch popular culture in accessible and attractive ways.

Friday 2 November 2012

Virtual exhibition: Jeux de princes, Jeux de vilains (BNF)

A quick post on a virtual exhibition of games which I came across on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France site. A little difficult to find, it is called Jeux de princes, jeux de vilains.  Based on a physical exhibition in 2009, it contextualises games through images not only of the games themselves, but also works of art showing games being played, and ephemera.

The exhibition is divided into the sinister and pleasurable sides of games and their place in society:  La face noire du jeu, Les plaisirs du jeu and La société ludique.

There are guided tours by the curators, commentaries on significant items and drop-down menus enabling the user to explore various aspects of playing cards, tarot, chess and children's games (les feuilletoirs). Many manifestations of Game of the goose are online. Much to explore, and to enjoy.

(C) Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Thursday 25 October 2012

The Roy Waters Theatre Collection at Royal Holloway. Guest post by Adele Allen

I was fortunate to have been invited to the launch last week of the Roy Waters Theatre Collection at Royal Holloway: a superb, newly available, resource. This guest post is by Adele Allen, Special Collections Archivist, who has just finished cataloguing the collection.

I am delighted to have been invited to write a guest post on the Roy Waters Theatre Collection, held at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

RW/1/7/6: Photograph of Roy Waters in Boscastle, 1948

 The collection of theatrical ephemera was bequeathed to the university in 2010 by the former 
teacher, school inspector and theatre enthusiast Roy Waters (1928-2010). It was Roy’s despair about how to conceal the elaborate flock wallpaper covering the walls of his new home and the subsequent suggestion of a friend that he use framed playbills and posters so as to make the space resemble a theatre foyer, which led him to spend over forty years carefully acquiring an impressive array of autograph letters, printed ephemera and artefacts reflecting his passion for the theatre.

The collection provides a fascinating insight into theatrical entertainment through the interests of a private collector. With a particular emphasis on well known actors, actresses and dramatists, the collection vividly illustrates their careers via autograph letters, programmes, playbills, photographs, news cuttings, prints and artefacts, ranging from the eighteenth to the twenty first century. We also hold Roy Waters’ personal papers, providing insight into the man behind the ephemera.  

RW/4/4/2/6. Playbill, 1807
 The focus of the collection on individual actors, actresses and singers is emphasised by the fact that the many series, including autograph letters and sheet music, are arranged alphabetically by performer - from Frances Abington writing in 1786 to Doris Zinkeisen, painter, theatrical costume and set designer in 1955 in the case of the letters, and from the dulcet tones of Henry Ainley to those of Tom Woottwell in the sheet music. However, as is the nature of private collections, particular enthusiasms emerged over the course of Roy’s collecting, and these are given special emphasis. Oscar Wilde, Henry Irving and Noel Coward at various times were the focus of his list of ephemera ‘wants’, and as a consequence  there are discrete series of material relating to these individuals, including, for instance, two 1882 cabinet card photographs of Oscar Wilde taken by Napoleon Sarony in New York. Likewise, there is a wonderful selection of scene sheets from continental toy theatre publishers such as Paluzie [Spain] and Schreiber [Germany].

The material, eclectic and varied as it is, can be brought together to tell a compelling story about the relationship between the theatre and the society in which it operated. Newspapers from 1681-1945 allow not only an insight into shows being advertised and reviewed, but the political and social context within which the plays were staged. Playbills and posters equally can provide information beyond cast lists and scene summaries, a Princess’s Theatre playbill for ‘King Lear’ dating from 1858 includes a passage written by Charles Kean about the production and the Princess's Theatre's staging of the play, with reference made to other Shakespearian revivals at the theatre. Likewise, a Theatre Royal, Covent Garden playbill of 1809 is largely given over to a response to the O.P [Old Price] Riots, with a notice from the committee 'for examining the affairs of Covent Garden', justifying the rise in the price of admission with audited accounts covering the previous seasons.

RW/15/1/5 Toy theatre print, 1831
Visually appealing as well, the collection contains a fantastic sequence of portrait and satirical prints, as well as cabinet card photographs and over 3000 photographic postcards. A small but varied collection of original art work ranges from a Samuel de Wilde painting of Stephen Kemble as Falstaff – reputedly the only English actor to play the role without artificial padding (!) – to a limited edition print of a David Bowie self portrait, signed by the artist. Six Agatha Walker wax figurines of characters from ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ as well as another of Gwen Ffrangcon Davies in ‘The Barrett’s of Wimpole Street’ add a three dimensional appeal to the collection. The world of film and radio is in fact well represented, with over 400 cigarette cards, a discreet series of material including a number of photographs relating to the actor Edmund Gwenn, the only actor to receive an Academy Award for playing the role of Santa Claus, and a file of correspondence from the Hollywood actress Una O’Connor.

RW/14/3/14: Cabinet photograph by Félix Nadar of Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth, 1899

The collection is now available for study due to the kind inclusion in the Roy Waters bequest of funds to undertake a project to catalogue and re-house the material. A launch hosted at Royal Holloway last week announced the new availability of the collection with an exhibition and drinks reception and it is our hope Roy’s array of ephemera will be well used by researchers. The collection may be searched via our online catalogue at We welcome enquiries and requests to view the material and may be contacted by email:

Adele Allen
Special Collections Archivist (Roy Waters Theatre Collection)