Friday, October 18, 2013

Philadelphia Ephemera Acquired

The Library Company has acquired the Joe Freedman Collection of Philadelphia Ephemera. Compiled over many decades by a distinguished collector with a discerning eye for historical significance, the Freedman Collection comprises nearly 900 pieces of ephemera, prints, manuscripts, and books. Gems from the collection include nearly 100 trade cards dating from the mid-18th to the late-19th century; a portfolio of manuscript maps surveying the early development of South Philadelphia during the 18th century; one of the earliest printed American bills of fare (ca. 1850); and rare bills of lading from the press of Benjamin Franklin (1760 and 1761). Go to our Flickr page for samples from the collection.

Announcing the acquisition at their successful recent ephemera conference, Visual Culture Program co-Directors Erika Piola and Rachel D’Agostino reflected on the importance of this collection to the Program, and to the Library Company’s stature with respect to promoting the research uses of ephemera. “Scholars are making increasingly inspired uses of printed ephemera as historical source material and we are thrilled to be providing leadership to the field. ” The acquisition complements a number of existing collection and research strengths, including women’s history, African American history, philanthropy, Philadelphia urban history, and, particularly, visual culture and early American economic history.

Through a recent ephemera cataloging project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, an exhibition, and the “Unmediated History” conference, the Library Company has positioned itself at the forefront of preserving and providing access to historical ephemera collections. Highlights of the ephemera collection can be viewed in the exhibition Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home, on display through December. Whimsical reflections on ephemera by contemporary artists of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society are also on display in a small accompanying exhibition.

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