Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Collaborative Ephemera Conference Opens Tomorrow

The broad program starts with a reception and tour of the corresponding exhibition Remnants of Everyday Life:Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home on the evening of September 19. Participants will learn more about the Library Company's vast holdings of ephemera from the 18th to the early-20th centuries from curators and VCP co-directors Rachel D’Agostino and Erika Piola. As Ms. D’Agostino explains, “the challenge for us was to bring these collections to the awareness of the public, and to suggest the kinds of discoveries that could be made by a closer examination of them.” With materials ranging from items destined for disposal to collectibles of personal significance to finely printed works, the exhibition explores the history of graphic design, the changing nature of 19th-century leisure activities, and the impact of popular print media and fads on Victorian-era consumerism. 

On Friday, these themes will be further examined by scholars of historical ephemera. Panelists will discuss the artistry involved in the production of trade cards and the assembly of scrapbooks, the creation of institutional collections of ephemera, and the impact of mass photographic production on 19th-century visual and popular culture.

The conference serves as another of the many initiatives by the Ephemera Society of America to raise awareness of this print genre. Founded in 1980, the Society cultivates and encourages interest in ephemera, as well as the history identified with it. The Society’s wide constituency includes collectors, dealers, scholars, and institutions like the Library Company and fellow conference co-sponsor the Print Center. 

Following Friday’s panel discussions, a reception will be held at the Print Center, one of the first venues in the country dedicated to the appreciation of prints. During the reception, attendees will be able to view Ephemeral Sprawl, an exhibition of contemporary printed ephemera inspired by Remnants and Unmediated History and co-curated by the Print Center and Printeresting, “a collaborative art blog and occasional arts producer.” Personal ephemera from the collections of Ms. D’Agostino and Ms. Piola will be on exhibit for the culminating event of the conference. 

Getting Creative with Ephemera

Concetta Barbera, Street Trade (2013). Ink on paper.

Ephemera!, a mini exhibition showing original work inspired by Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home, will be on view at the Library Company through December 2013. Curators Concetta Barbera, who is Curatorial Assistant and Digitization Specialist at the Library Company, and long-time collaborator Christian Patchell invited nine artists and fellow members of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society (PCS) to re-imagine 19th-century trade cards, envelopes, sketchbooks, labels, comic valentines, and much more.

Kyle Margiotta, Profile Portrait (2013).  Chalk on paper.

The curators enjoy showcasing the creativity generated by collaboration across the traditional genre boundaries. In preparation for the exhibition they hosted two events for the participating artists. The first, held in mid-April at the Library Company, was an evening spent drawing with examples from the collections. Many of the artists had never been to the Library Company before and discovered an untapped resource in the eclectic ephemera collections. For a second event, Ms. Barbera, inspired by the silhouettes exhibited in the main gallery, photographed the artists in profile to assist in creating new silhouettes for souvenir trade cards.

Chris Patchell, Patch's Sketchbook (2013).  Mixed media.

The Philadelphia Cartoonist Society, established in 1997, is a group of cartoonists who live and work in Philadelphia and includes thirty active artists among its nearly 100 members. The PCS supports creative collaboration and networking among its members and focuses on charitable work with children and local non-profits. For more information about the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society, its members, and their work go to

Ephemera! features artwork by Jeff Kilpatrick, Tim Durning, Christine Larsen, Andrew Hoffmann, Kyle Margiotta, Eamon Dougherty, Melissa Lomax, Christian Patchell, and Concetta Barbera. The exhibition will be on display concurrently with Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home, and was produced in collaboration with the Visual Culture Program at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

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