On the heels of the Queen's diamond Jubilee, I thought I'd post this charming piece of ephemera related to her father.
King George VI is now well known here in the United States because of the recent movie "The King's Speech." I was especially excited to watch the movie last year when I learned that it had a connection to this souvenir I picked up while in Bermuda many years ago. Though it's not a unique piece of history, it is a beautiful and thought provoking one.
Cartophily is the hobby of collecting cigarette cards. Beginning in the late 19th century, cigarette companies began including cards of popular subjects packaged with their cigarettes. Creating sets of a variety of subjects ranging from sports heroes to flowers, the companies encouraged people to collect them all. They eventually created books, like the one pictured here, so that people could paste their collections in them for safekeeping and easy viewing.
Though not "archives" in the strictest sense of the word, items like this have an important place in family collections and special collections. The story behind this coronation book tells a lot about me. The item itself was mass-produced and is not unique, but its context in my own collection is. I love items related to England. My great-grandmother was English. I most especially love reading about the period of Henry VIII (which is probably very American of me) and I have a bookshelf filled with books about him. I cruised to Bermuda about 15 years ago as a young bride. It was a wonderful trip. Finding a cute little antique shop on the Island was icing on the cake. Finding this book and discussing with my husband whether we should purchase it or not is a vivid memory. Put alongside photos of the trip and this short story about it, this item illustrates a special time in my life.
The item is in very good condition except for a few rusty staples holding it together and some bleeding from the cards onto the book paper. Red is not a very stable color and the beautiful crimson on the cards edges has leached across pages. (You can make that out in this picture if you look carefully.) I am sure that the Bermuda air and open door policy of the antique shop didn't help. The item is now appropriately boxed with archival supplies. I've interleaved thin sheets of acid free paper so that if the bleeding continues it will leach on to the loose papers rather than harming the book itself. I check the papers periodically to see if they are turning red. If they were, I would exchange them for new papers, but they are not. My stable storage environment seems to have done the preservation trick. I've left the rusty staples in to keep the book intact, but I'm keeping my eyes on those too and will remove them should that become necessary.
I wonder the provenance of this book. How did it get to the Island? Who owned it before the antique shop? But I'm sure that is one mystery I'll never solve. There are no clues as there were with my 1882 diary.
We all keep souvenirs that are important to us and that help shed light on our personal narrative. One should give them similar attention to the letters, diaries and other unique items in our collections. Make an effort to tell your story about them and use proper supplies to keep them just as I've done here.
For more on the Queen's 60th anniversary see her official website. I think it's a little amazing to think that she has an official web site...how far we have come in 60 years!