New Exhibition about Historical Ephemera Opening at the Library Company of Philadelphia

Contributed by Erika Piola, Library Company of Philadelphia

From Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home

Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home highlights the Library Company’s vast collection of ephemera from the 18th to early 20th century. With materials ranging from throw-away items to finely printed works, Remnants of Everyday Life considers the cultural impact of advancements in mass production technologies. The exhibition will address the evolution of the graphic design of ephemera; the gendering of ephemera associated with the home, such as scrapbooks; the changing nature of leisure activities and consumerism over the course of the 19th century; and the life-cycle of commercial ephemera between the workplace, street, and home.

Remnants will exhibit broadsides, playbills, fliers, postcards, trade cards, tickets, menus, World’s Fair souvenirs, labels, stereographs, albums, scrapbooks, paper dolls and other ephemeral toys and games, and advertisements. Specific examples include the 1897 billhead for Mrs. Henrietta S. Duterte, an African American undertaker and possibly the first female embalmist in the country; examples of Victorian-era paper bags, including the then novel “Square Bag” patented in 1872; the seminal 1870 printing manual Typographia, which broke new ground for commercial graphic design—and one of the first illustrated circus posters issued in 1828.

The Library Company has one of the largest, most important and most varied collections of early American ephemera in existence. In Spring 2012, the Library Company completed a two-year project to arrange, catalog, and selectively digitize nearly 30,000 pieces of 18th- and 19th-centry ephemera funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities.

An outgrowth of this project, Remnants of Everyday Life, curated by Visual Culture Program co-Directors Rachel D’Agostino and Erika Piola, is on view from Monday, May 13, through Friday, December 13, 2013. The conference Unmediated History: The Scholarly Study of 19th-Century Ephemera co-sponsored by the Library Company’s Visual Culture Program (VCP at LCP) and The Ephemera Society of America scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition will be held September 19-20, 2013.The exhibition and its accompanying programming are supported by funds from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

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