Friday, 29 June 2012

Explore More Ephemera Collections at the Library Company of Philadelphia: guest post by Erika Piola

I am so pleased to guest post an update about the Library Company of Philadelphia’s ephemera collections first described on February 13, 2012. Thanks to the generosity of the National Endowment for the Humanities, more of our printed and graphic ephemera is now available online. Those with an interest in popular and visual culture, history of women, German-Americana, and economics now have access to near 30, 000 pieces of ephemera as well as over 7,000 representative digital files of these holdings in our catalog ImPAC.

(C) Library Company of Philadelphia

Ranging in date from circa 1720  to circa 1900, and arranged by genre and/or provenance, our newly accessible materials include early 18th-century bills of lading; amateur newspapers;  postcards, stereographs, and trade cards documenting Philadelphia cityscapes, businesses, and commercial customs; and a number of personal and professional albums and scrapbooks. Within the latter, the works of early prominent local photographers, specimens compiled by 19th-century Philadelphia printers and engravers, as well as trade cards, souvenirs, and mementos collected by socialites of the Progressive Era can be found. Other ephemera documents the Centennial Exhibition of 1876; the history of the Library Company; and the work of artist Peter Moran.

(C) Library Company of Philadelphia

(C) Library Company of Philadelphia
The grant funding also facilitated the cataloging and digitization of materials given by contemporary collectors and long-term donors. The Helen Beitler Collection contains items predominantly related to 19th-century advertising, including billheads, blotters, calendars, envelopes, and labels. The collections given by William H. Helfand, a Library Company trustee emeritus and retired drug company executive, are a rich source for the history of patent medicine. The Roughwood Collection given by folklore scholar Don Yoder and William Woys Weaver document the lives of the Pennsylvania Dutch, while the Michael Zinman collections shed light on international communities through his World’s Fairs Collection, the blind community through his raised letter publications,  and the legal community through his collection of pre-1801 blank forms, such as subpoenas, deeds, and court summons.

More esoteric materials are also represented. Patrons can peruse Philadelphia amateur scientist Joseph Breintnall’s nature prints of leaves, one of our earliest acquisitions of ephemera, given to the library in 1746; circa 1895 color-printed flash cards to teach foreign languages through the Berlitz Method; as well as “Things Found in Books” from within our holdings.

Although several of the collections noted above are viewable in the digital catalog, additional and complementary records describing the materials can be further discovered in our traditional catalog WolfPAC. Through search terms representing the genre of the material, the collection or collector’s name, or the grant funder “National Endowment for the Humanities,” catalog users have another method in which to learn about the diversity of the Library Company’s ephemera collections.

I hope I have inspired a few more ephemera enthusiasts and scholars to visit our collections online (and in person). And one final note - please do not assume that a collection retrieved through a hyperlink is the only digital collection represented by the text highlighted. Please explore ImPAC. More ephemera of interest is sure to be found.

Erika Piola
Associate Curator, Prints and Photographs
The Library Company of Philadelphia

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