Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The ephemera of fireworks

(C) Bodleian Library: John Johnson Collection: Music Tites 3 (42)
Guy Fawkes Day (November 5) has generated a lot of ephemera: fliers and posters for events, prints, and, above all, the promotional material, packaging and labels for the fireworks themselves.

These resources are somewhat scattered, but there is much to be found online, through flickr and various virtual archives, mounted by specialist enthusiasts. Examples are: Maurice and Steve's virtual firework heritage museum and the fireworkmuseum.co.uk/.

More can be found through Google images, with contributions from, for example, The Museum of British Folklore. It is the hope of the Director, Simon Costin that this museum will acquire premises. It does, however, have material and has mounted a series of exhibitions, including (in 2011) Remember, remember: a history of fireworks in Britain, which I visited at Compton Verney. The webpage has embedded a You Tube video of the exhibits. On October 31 (appropriately) The Museum of British Folklore acquired the Museum of Witchcraft

There are also, of course, resources in major libraries and museums: The British Library, the V&A and also via image libraries such as the Look and Learn site (notably in the Peter Jackson collection), and the Mary Evans Picture Library, which has a feature on Guy Fawkes Night.

The John Johnson Collection includes four folders of material relating to fireworks not yet catalogued or digitised. One of our prize firework-related items is, however, online: a  ticket for the Royal Fireworks at St. James's Park in April 1749, the fireworks for which Handel wrote his famous music.
(C) Bodleian Library: John Johnson Collection: Tickets Show Places various (46)
There are also trade cards for 'artists' in fireworks
(C) Bodleian Library: John Johnson Collection: Trade Cards 26 (53)

(C) Bodleian Library: John Johnson Collection: Trade Cards 26 (32)

Another major source of information about fireworks and pyrotechnic effects in the John Johnson Collection (mostly unrelated to November 5) is playbills. Fireworks often formed part of entertainments, both indoors and outdoors. Not all have illustrations (as the example below) but the full text searching of the The John Johnson Collection: an archive of printed ephemera (ProQuest site  with access via HE, FE, public libraries and schools) facilitates finding entertainments which included fireworks.

(C) Bodleian Library: John Johnson Collection: 
London Play Places 7 (19)

(C) Bodleian Library: John Johnson Collection:
Dioramas 6 (8)
This handbill  of c. 1896 relates to a panorama of the life of Guy Fawkes, complete with 'a grand display of thousands of fountains of fireworks'.
There are also ballads in the Bodleian (and, of course, elsewhere) relating to Guy Fawkes. The new Bodleian Broadside Ballads online site is well worth exploring.

If you know of further collections of firework-related ephemera, please email jjcoll@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and I will write a supplementary post.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Red Cross Museum and Archives: guest post by Jemma Lee

Congratulations to the Red Cross, celebrating its 150th anniversary today.

In September, I was privileged to visit the Red Cross Library with a small group from the Ephemera Society.  I invited Jemma Lee to write a guest post and am very grateful to her for doing so. 

The British Red Cross museum and archives exist to collect, preserve and make accessible to a wide audience the history of the British Red Cross and its place in the context of the international movement. 

The collection comprises both archive records and museum artefacts which have been generated and acquired by the organisation from its formation in 1870 as the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War, to the present day and our continuing vital contribution in society. 

In addition to official minute books, annual reports, uniforms and medical equipment, the collection contains a fascinating array of ephemera which serves to strengthen the evidence that we hold of our humanitarian work and in many cases, to provide a personal element to our story.  Medals and badges awarded by the Society demonstrate the role of the volunteer, whilst labels from collecting tins and tickets for balls and galas provide colour and context to our fundraising activities.   

Poster, 1939. (C) British Red Cross Museum and Archives

The poster collection is particularly valuable in providing a visual record of our services such as first aid and care in the home, with examples by Tom Purvis and Charles Pears often proving to be very popular with visitors.  

Other ephemeral items include Christmas cards, stamps and packaging from products sent in food and relief parcels to Prisoners of War.   The latter subject is in fact greatly enhanced by this collection, with menus, programmes and propaganda leaflets, which are a valuable addition to the authorised documents of the Red Cross and hence offer a source of unique information for researchers.  

0566/32 (C) British Red Cross Museum and Archives

The website outlines the scope of the collections and there is an online catalogue through which the museum and archives can be separately searched through simple, advanced and expert search screens, often with digitised images, exemplified in this screen shot of a search for poster in the Museum collection.

(C) British Red Cross Museum and Archives

There are also online exhibitions of photographs and ephemera, including an overview of historical posters.

Ephemera is used within the context of the larger Museum and Archive collections to promote the work of the British Red Cross internally to staff and volunteers and externally to answer enquiries.  Tours of the collection can be arranged and research space can be booked by appointment either by emailing enquiry@redcross.org.uk  or by telephoning 020 7877 7058. 

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

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Exhibitions (2): Transatlantiques at the Musée de l'mprimerie de Lyon

In April, I was privileged to go to the opening of Transatlantiques: l'épopée graphique des paquebots de légende at the Musée de l'Imprimerie in Lyon. Dr Alan Marshall, director of the museum, has been a staunch advocate of ephemera for many years. His 2001 exhibition, Ephemera: les imprimés de tous les jours 1880-1939 was a trail-blazer and introduced a dazzling display of ephemera to the public mainly through four printers'archives: those of Imprimeries Audin, Gougenheim, Perreyon (all of Lyon), and A. Waton (St. Etienne). The excellent catalogue is still available at the museum.   Alan followed this (in terms of ephemera) with Couleurs, les prouesses de la chromolithographie, an exhibition curated by Prof.. Michael Twyman, world expert in lithography and ephemera.  Furthermore, the permanent displays of the museum include many examples of ephemera. These are, of course, a selection from very rich research collections.

Transatlantiques runs from Wednesday to Sunday until 1 September 2013 and is co-curated by Clémence Ducroix  and Alan Marshall. The exhibits are not from the museum's own collections but from l'Association French Lines, Le Havre, of which Mme Ducroix is the archivist.

Poster by Jan Auvigne. (C) Association French Lines
 An exhibition of ocean liner ephemera in Lyon?  The connection is not the sea, but printing. The stunning display of prints, forms, menus, brochures, leaflets, ships newspapers, posters, tickets, labels, wrappers and all sorts of promotional material shows what printing was necessitated by the running of transatlantic boats, ships and liners.  Through this angle, we begin to comprehend just how much was required to administer and promote these complicated companies.  Much was printed on shore, some on board, and there are large images of both printing operations.

The catalogue is co-authored by the curators and documents the history of the Compagnie Générale  Transatlantique, and the emergence of graphic art.for publicity.

Another exhibition of collections from l'Association French Lines has just opened in Evian. Légendes des mers. L'art de vivre à bord des paquebots runs from15 June to 22 September 2013.

The French Lines archive is currently being catalogued. On the website, there is a list of the main categories and also sample images.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Ephemera exhibitions, catalogues and books (1)

There are currently several ephemera exhibitions, in this country and in the U.S.A.

This week, I went to The London Transport Museum's Poster Art 150: London Underground's Greatest Designs. Superb posters, with a public voting system to select the most popular poster. The exhibition is arranged into themes:: Finding your way, Brightest London, Capital culture, Away from it all , Keeps London going and Love your city.  There is a catalogue, reproducing the posters. The exhibition runs until 27 October.

The British Library has a major exhibition: Propaganda: Power and Persuasion (17 May to 17 September).

Propaganda: Power and Persuasion home page: (C) British Library Board

There are events, tours, a blog and a catalogue by Prof David Welch.

In the USA, the exhibition Ephemera: the art of everyday printed mattter has just opened at the Portsmouth Athenaeum and runs until  15 September.

(C) Portsmouth Athenaeum
The Library Company of Philadelphia (the subject of previous blog posts: 13 Feb 2012 and, guest post by Erika Piola, 29 June 2012) meanwhile has an exhibition Remnants of everyday life: historical ephemera in the workplace, street and home, which runs until 15 December 2013.

There is also a related ephemera conference: Unmediated history, the scholarly study of 19th century ephemera (Visual Culture Program of the Library Company of Philadelphia and Ephemera Society of America) at the LCP  from 19 to 20 September 2013.

While I could not find any links to exhibition catalogues for either USA exhibition, this is a good chance to promote the Library Company of Philadelphia's recent project: Philadelphia on Stone, which has an online exhibition, digital catalogue and a major publication: Philadelphia on Stone: Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia, 1828-1878, edited by Erika Piola.

Finally, a new, scholarly book on ephemera has just been published. Studies in Ephemera: text and image in eighteenth-century print, ed. by Kevin Murphy and Sally O'Driscoll, Lewisburg (Bucknell University Press) focuses mainly on ballads (including a chapter on ballad images by the Bodleian's Alexandra Franklin) and broadsides.  There are also chapters by Sally O'Driscoll on macaronis in print culture and  by Georgia Barnhill on Ephemera at the American Antiquarian Society: perspectives on commercial life in the long eighteenth century.  The superb ephemera in the AAS have been digitised and are available to subscribers only through Readex. Sadly, the Bodleian does not subscribe.

Studies in Ephemera is also widely available as an e-book

Friday, 22 March 2013


Wheels within wheels: one of Europeana's contributors is Culture Grid, subject of my last blog post.
(C) Europeana
Europeana is work in progress, but already has nearly 6,300 hits for ephemera, mainly so far from The European Library and Hispana.   Additionally, there are over 35,000 entries under postcard (nearly 27,000 under Postkarte), many part of Europeana's major 1914-1918 project.

(C) Europeana

The list of Europeana participants includes the University of Ghent, which will contribute Posters of the late 19th century and ephemera. 

This will be a major resource. Developments can be followed on Facebook, on a blog and on Twitter.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Culture Grid

Culture Grid is a platform through which institutional collections can be cross-searched. These include pre-existing cross-searchable projects such as VADS (and therefore the John Johnson Collection Political Cartoons and Trades and Professions Prints) and Exploring 20th century London.

The site is rich in ephemera, notably posters, advertisements, postcards, labels, etc. The three million items can either be searched by such genre terms or by subject (which can be narrowed down to posters, etc), or by institution.

(C) Culture Grid
The list of contributing institutions (which can be found by searching, then selecting 'more search options' and activating the 'Select collections' button) is extensive and includes regional collections, with many gems for the ephemerist.

(C) Culture Grid



I didn't find a browse function or a way just to get an overview of the contribution of each institution, but for real researchers doing real enquiries this site will reveal lesser known material.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Jules Chéret and Alphonse Mucha

My recent work on Eugène Rimmel for a mini online exhibition on my other blog: The John Johnson Collection: Now and Then led me to explore his little-known collaboration with his countryman Jules Chéret.

It was Chéret who compiled Les Maitres de l'Affiche. Published by Imprimerie Chaix between 1895 and 1900, this monthly publication showcased international lithographic poster art, including works by Toulouse Lautrec, Chéret himself, Steinlen, and Dudley Hardy.

It is now very easy to gain an overview of the works of artists, especially poster artists, through commercial sites, usually showing reproductions which can be ordered as prints, mugs, T shirts, etc. Googling offers quick and easy ways to see the works of Jules Chéret, Toulouse Lautrec, Steinlen, Dudley Hardy and others. The commercial All posters site includes the facility to view international musuem holdings, e.g. from the Musée Toulouse Lautrec in Albi, as well as searching by artist.

The complete works - Jules Chéret is a site which, while it does not include Chéret's work on valentines or almanacs, does present the advertising posters (124 images) for which he is famous, in an attractive manner.   There is also a biography. This too is a commercial site, offering hand-painted reproductions of the works, but there is, nevertheless, some descriptive metadata.

For more academic sites, with metadata, however, Gallica again  reveals what a rich resource it is, with no fewer than 1,165 results for Chéret, Jules, many from the Médiathèque de Chaumont. There are many  hundreds for Mucha, Lautrec etc.

(C) Gallica
 The V&A site also has a weatlth of posters, with a supporting study guide, which includes a superb bibliography.
(C) V&A

(C) Mucha Foundation

My interest in Alphonse Mucha was rekindled by a visit to Prague last summer, where I visited both Mucha museums. The Mucha Foundation has a wonderful website, full of information and with over 300 images of Mucha's key works