Friday, January 03, 2014

Doing More with Less -- Using Newspaper Ads and Loaned Postcards for a Holiday Exhibit

Fall and Winter Holidays in Chester Exhibit, 2013. Photo Copyright Deb Schiff, 2013.
Holidays in Chester Exhibit. Photo credit Deb Schiff, copyright 2013.
In early October 2013, I began asking my coworkers and volunteers if they had any holiday objects, photos, or other items I could borrow for the upcoming Holidays in Chester exhibit I was planning. Unfortunately, no one had anything to offer. I then turned to our most generous donor, Joan Case, to ask if she had anything I could display.

Later that week, Joan came to my office with a giant smile and a three-ring binder filled with the most marvelous holiday postcards from the early 1900s and 1910s. They had been sent to her mother and uncle when they were children. The cards were in excellent condition and properly housed in polyester sleeves. Importantly, they scanned and printed well when I made facsimiles for the months-long exhibit (November through early January). While I'd love to use the originals in an exhibit, it would be a shame for these gorgeous cards to fade while on display under UV lights.

All of the items in the exhibit (with the exception of a turkey-shaped salt shaker and some fabric leaves I'd bought at the dollar store) were facsimiles. Because the postcards were overwhelmingly Christmas-themed, I needed to supplement them with a diverse array of holiday items. I also required enough items to populate the main display case by the front desk and the new small, wall case I recently purchased. The little case is mounted on a wall adjacent to my office. The facsimiles in that case show the backs and fronts of holiday postcards, so that patrons could see the warm greetings sent to Joan's family members.

Holidays in Chester Exhibit, image 2. Photo copyright Deb Schiff 2013.
Holidays in Chester Exhibit. Photo credit Deb Schiff, copyright 2013.
Although it also was Christmas-themed, I made a smaller facsimile of a masthead from the Christmas 1944 issue of The Honor Roll newsletter. I remembered what a striking image of the town it had, and thought it would provide a focal point for the main display. You can see it in the upper right corner of the photo above this paragraph.

The remaining items in the exhibit originated in The Mendham-Chester Tribune and the Observer-Tribune, its successor newspaper. These materials included local stories that highlighted the season, as well as advertisements. Surprisingly, there weren't many holiday stories that could be used in the exhibit. Perseverance pays, however, because I did manage to find one item highlighting former Mayor (and famed chicken farmer) Janet Abeles cooking in her kitchen (lower center of the photo above).

The early (1950s) Tribunes' publishers kept a tradition of selling ads to local businesses for a special holiday section. These notices included thank yous to patrons, holiday greetings, and reminders of items for sale. Often, they featured lively holiday designs.

Holidays in Chester Exhibit. Photo credit Deb Schiff, copyright 2013.
Holidays in Chester Exhibit. Photo credit Deb Schiff, copyright 2013.
Above is a close-up photo of three advertisements and one postcard. The original postcard has a lovely 3D effect with raised gold sections indicating a folded-back area where an attractive, blonde, early 19th century woman dressed hat to toe in holiday red is carrying a gift. It's a lovely card and the facsimile doesn't do it justice. Thankfully, our donor has hinted that the card's future includes becoming part of her family's collection at the library.

The advertisements include one for a Jeep on sale at Apgar's Garage, as well as two New Year's Eve parties at the Chester Inn and Red Cricket Inn.

Two major exhibits are in the works for 2014:
  1. Celebrating the 350th anniversary of New Jersey, I'll be mounting an exhibit showcasing select sections of our 1860 New Jersey Topographical Map. The exhibit will be coordinated with a featured speaker, Maxine Lurie, on April 29th.
  2. The 10th anniversary of the Chester Library addition and renovation takes place in 2014. We have many blueprints and photographs that will be highlighted in the exhibit occupying the cases during the second half of the year.
As I continue to learn more about exhibits, I try to put my new knowledge into practice. The greatest teacher has been the viewing of other exhibits, whether in libraries, museums, or other institutions. So, my cultural institutional friends, don't be surprised if I pinch one of your better practices!