Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving in the Archives and Beyond

Turkeys have been roaming my neighborhood since late summer. They move around like a gang of teenagers, picking up new members in the area and returning to their favorite hangout spots in larger numbers each time they visit. I haven't seen them in a few weeks. Were they smart enough to hightail it out of here before Thanksgiving?

Perhaps I began a new annual tradition last year when I posted interesting online finds representing Thanksgiving related holdings in archives around the United States.  This year I bring you more:

New York Public Library vintage Thanksgiving menus are part of the library's spectacular menu archives The collection is also notable as the subject of a NYPL crowdsourcing project that seeks to digitize the holdings.

I found lovely, nostalgic photos of Americans celebrating Thanksgiving by searching the collections of the Library of Congress.

Historic New England is known for their collection of New England ephemera. Their materials include thanksgiving, cards, menus, and dinner tickets. This Thanksgiving postcard caught my eye.

The Thanksgiving art work of Norman Rockwell (which I hoped to find on the Norman Rockwell Museum's page) is highlighted on a Norman Rockwell Collector site. Rockwell's work helped mold our modern ideas about Thanksgiving celebration.

Though not specifically Thanksgiving related, the University of Illinois Archaeology and Public Engagement Department's Plymouth Colony online archive has interesting documents that we generally associate with the "founders" of the Thanksgiving holiday. The site includes unique analysis of the records, so that we can better understand them in context and encourages us to "undertake [our] own analysis and interpretations."

I had a fun time searching for events of past Thanksgivings in the Google news archives. I searched the year of my birth and found that dinners were served to soldiers and native Americans protested the holiday. 


This year, perhaps because of my focus on personal papers through my book and workshop, I am also thinking about how I can relate these archives finds more strongly to my family's celebrations:

 Perhaps I'll find a new dish to use in the NYPL menus. (I began decorating oranges for Christmas one year when I read about how it was a Victorian tradition.)

I plan to make some Thanksgiving "art trading cards" to
share with friends and add to our personal collections.
I do plan to show my daughter some of the postcard images from Historic New England. She came home a few weeks ago with a school project to create "art trading cards." We have been using dried wildflowers and markers to decorate business card sized oaktag pieces to swap with friends.  Perhaps Thanksgiving art cards can become a new rage!

Photos are always part of our celebration. Recently, I have been sure to get a new photo with my siblings each year. My home has become the Thanksgiving hot spot and it is the one time we are sure to be together to capture my brother and sister and me in transition...

Whatever I decide, I'm going to practice what I have been preaching in my writing all year and create documentation that records our special time together. I will not just look beyond my home for history. I'm going to see myself as the center of this special time and stop to recognize how at this moment I am living history. I hope that you will do the same.

However, at the same time, this activity has put me in the mood to visit my local antique shop and track down some holiday ephemera that is not connected to my family. Perhaps I'll have a new find to share with you next week.

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