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