Make an appointment to visit Historic New England's Library and Archives in Boston.Learn More
- School & Youth
- Get Involved
Eligible collections range from books, manuscripts, photographs, prints, and drawings to all kinds of ephemera, such as trade cards, scrapbooks, or theater programs. The prize of $500 and a membership to Historic New England is awarded at an annual event. Recognizing that works on paper could provide vital information for broad audiences, Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton began our vast Library and Archives collection.
Kalimah Redd Knight, president, and the League of Women for Community Service, Inc. (LWCS). The archives of the LWCS, recently catalogued in collaboration with Simmons University, contains books, letters, correspondences, ephemera, photos, ledgers, newspapers, magazines, minutes, and other materials of historic importance dating back to 1827. Two items of note include a copy of journalist Ida B. Wells first anti-lynching pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases (1892) and a copy of the book, Personal War Sketches (1892). This beautifully preserved volume contains handwritten transcriptions of the recollections of African American Civil War servicemen of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments and the 5th Massachusetts Calvary. The volume was written and assembled by Pauline Hopkins, a noted African American writer, dramatist, and novelist.
Margaret L. Winslow, curator of Historical Collections & Archives at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Margaret Winslow has been overseeing the collection and cataloging of Mount Auburn Cemetery for more than two decades. Within the collection are the now forgotten letterheads of countless contractors, hotels, businesses, and family homesteads. During the restricted COVID years, Winslow reached out to engage and foster willing participants in an online transcription effort, a community effort that received enthusiastic support. The cemetery has developed plans to make the physical collection accessible over the next several years which will be revolutionary and welcomed wholeheartedly by its diverse community of supporters.
Barbara Fahs Charles has amassed a collection of carousel-related ephemera. It includes catalogues, photographs, stereo cards, post cards, tickets, prints, and cartoons. It also includes brochures and posters from New England resorts and parks where carousels operated, and time tables for the trolleys and steamers that would take one to these places of leisure.
James Kochan has assembled one of the finest private study collections of rare books, prints, maps, artwork, and manuscripts focused on the early military and naval history and material culture of Maine until statehood (1820). Kochan has also published seven books and more than one hundred articles or research reports dealing with early American and New England military and naval material culture and history.
Derin Bray is a leading collector of vintage tattoo trade catalogues, postcards, business cards, cabinet cards, hand-painted flash designs, and related items. He has an extensive collection documenting tattooing in America from the 1870s through World War II. His recent collecting and research has focused on the history of tattooing in Boston. Learn more at derinbray.com.
Sam Allen has amassed a collection of ephemera on New Hampshire town and city anniversaries and the Old Home Days celebrations. The collection includes town histories, celebration programs, posters, broadsides, and postcards. Allen is frequently contacted by historical societies and local historians to share this resource. He plans to donate the collection to the New Hampshire Historical Society. Lance Llewellyn’s collection relates to the State of Vermont, with a focus on the City of Burlington. The collection of postcards, maps, and memorabilia also includes more than 800 books and pamphlets, 200 objects, plus sheet music, brochures, advertisements, and souvenirs. The collection was donated to Champlain College and an exhibition of highlights from the collection is on display in Roger H. Perry Hall. Earl Taylor has a vast collection of material related to the history of Dorchester, Massachusetts. Starting in 2001 with the quest for Dorchester postcards, the collection now contains more than 1,000 postcards plus advertisements, architectural illustrations, books, pamphlets, yearbooks, photographs, diaries, manuscripts, and matchbook covers. Taylor donated the collection to the Dorchester Historical Society where items may be viewed in exhibitions and on the Dorchester Illustration blog.
Donna Halper, a professor at Lesley University and a media historian, has amassed a collection of letters, promotional pieces, photographs, magazines, books, and other memorabilia related to the history of broadcasting and pioneering men and women who worked in the early days of the radio and television industry. Halper’s collection contains a significant amount of rare memorabilia. She shares the collection through articles and books about media history as well as public presentations at libraries and historical societies. Laurence Senelick, a professor at Tufts University, has amassed a collection of theatrical imagery that is one of the largest private holdings about the history of performance. The collection contains portraits, publicity material, souvenirs, pictures of theater building interiors and exteriors, trade cards, early photographs, and more. There is a special emphasis on dramatic theater, circus, vaudeville, music hall, and opera, with particularly strong representation from 1650 to 1940. Items from his collection have been used to illustrate reference books and are often consulted by researchers, museums, and theaters.
Eddie Woodin of Portland, Maine, built a one-of-a-kind collection of more than 700 original paintings of birds and a vast collection of ephemera about birds, especially pieces used to educate the American public about birds and bird conservation. He has been a generous lender to the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon, in particular for the 2014 exhibition Painting Birds to Save Them: The Critical Role of Art in the Bird Conservation Movement. Read “Plumed Tales,” an article on Eddie from the Summer 2018 issue of Historic New England magazine.
Harry J. Ashe, M.D. M.P.H., is a retired physician whose personal collection of books and ephemera presents a continuous narrative of New Englanders and Americans in China and the China Trade. Spanning from 1792 through 1894, Dr. Ashe’s collection has been used as a resource for students from Ipswich, Massachusetts, to Macao, China. Katherine C. Grier, professor of history and director of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware, collects a wide range of ephemeral works on paper related to the history of pets in American culture from the eighteenth century to the present. Through her book, Pets in America: A History, and exhibition, Pets in America: The Story of Our Lives with Animals at Home, she helped legitimize pets as a topic of historical study. Richard J.S. Gutman, director and curator of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales University, has built a collection based on the history of the American roadside diner, which originated in New England 144 years ago. His collection of hundreds of archival photos, original architectural drawings and blueprints, advertisements, postcards, matchbooks, menus, and more helped popularize the study of vernacular commercial and roadside architecture. He is the author of American Diner Then and Now.
Robert Fraker of Lanesborough, Massachusetts, has amassed an extraordinary collection of minor American verse dating from 1789 to 1900. Approximately five thousand books, pamphlets, broadsides, and manuscripts document the crucial position poetry held in popular expression in America from its national inception to the close of the nineteenth century. Formed over a period of more than twenty-five years, the collection includes examples of verse printed in every state or territory, verse by Americans printed abroad, and verse by Americans in five languages. It includes numerous unique or extremely rare items and a wealth of obscure imprints. Nina Heald Webber of West Falmouth, Massachusetts, has collected a vast amount of material related to the history of the Cape Cod Canal. Thousands of postcards, photographs, books, maps, ephemera, and objects illuminate the story of this engineering marvel. In addition to the Cape Cod Canal archive, Mrs. Webber has built similar ones focusing on Southwest Colorado; Naples, Florida; and Worcester County, Massachusetts. All four are now part of institutional collections and have been the subjects of books and exhibitions.
Dr. Jay T. Last of Beverly Hills, California, has collected American ephemera since the 1970s. He chose to transfer his collection of more than 140,000 paper objects to The Huntington Library in San Marino. Published in 2006, Last’s book The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography, examines the European roots and American commercial development of lithography and features highlights from his collection. Dr. Mehmed Ali is devoted to preserving the history of Lowell, Massachusetts. He has collected material documenting the city’s diverse communities, including Puerto Rican, African American, Lithuanian, Lao, Cambodian, French-Canadian, Italian, Syrian-Lebanese, and LGBT. When much of the contents of the Lowell Sun’s photographic archives was in danger of being discarded, Dr. Ali arranged for the collection of 120,000 photographs to be transferred and donated to the Lowell Historical Society. Similarly, he worked with the Center for Lowell History, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, on the acquisition of a collection of photographs by George Poirier, the city’s most prolific commercial photographer.
Dr. Charles Burden of Richmond, Maine, collects books, manuscripts, photographs, novelty items, ephemera, and other material related to Maine maritime history and the temperance movement as well as decorative arts and handcraft in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dr. Burden helped provide an authentic array of packaging for the 1942 Marden-Abbott House and Store exhibition at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He has donated extensive collections to the Maine Maritime Museum and Maine Historical Society. Nelson Dionne, a retired Salem, Massachusetts, police officer, collects photographs, ephemera, postcards, stereoviews, and objects related to the history of Salem. Much of his collection focuses on the city’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrial history. He has spent more than forty years building his archive at second-hand shops, estate sales, and auctions. His collection will be divided between Gordon College’s new Salem Museum and Salem State University. He has authored two books about Salem, with a third forthcoming.
M. Stephen Miller has assembled the finest and most comprehensive collection of Shaker ephemera held anywhere. He has shared the collection and his extensive knowledge through four books and numerous articles as well as three exhibitions that he has curated and numerous individual loans. His research has broadened the knowledge of Shaker industries — products of their lands and hands — for an entire generation of scholars. Miller’s Shaker collection is gradually being transferred to Hamilton College, where it will be accessible through the college’s Digital Collections website. DeWolfe & Wood Antiquarian Book Dealers specialize in Shaker material and Maine and New England history and literature. Scott DeWolfe and Frank Wood have assisted many institutions and collectors in assembling major collections since 1993. DeWolfe and Wood use their expertise to locate significant historical materials and place them with appropriate owners, including Historic New England, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and Hamilton College, as well as many private collectors.
Dr. Bryant F. Tolles Jr. spent more than thirty years assembling a comprehensive collection documenting the history, culture, and natural beauty of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. His collection consists of maps, books, illustrated booklets, ephemera, guide books, atlases, engravings, lithographs, and other archival materials. His dedication is reflected not only in his collection but in the care he has taken to conserve and share it. Tolles served as Director of Museum Studies; Chair, Art Conservation Department; and Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware. His publications on the White Mountains include The Grand Resort Hotels of the White Mountains, Summer Cottages in the White Mountains, and New Hampshire Architecture: An Illustrated Guide.
Philip H. Jones, a lifelong collector of paper materials, developed a notable archive of of the work of Charles Magnus, a nineteenth-century New York print publisher, map dealer, bookseller, and stationer. Jones established the Jones Fund, a yearly scholarship awarded to a researcher working on ephemera, at the Ephemera Society of America. Kenneth W. Rendell is a preeminent dealer in autographs and historical documents. In 1959, he published his first catalogue of autograph material of American presidents and to date has issued more than 300 catalogues. He amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of World War II artifacts, and created the Museum of World War II in Natick, Massachusetts, to share these extraordinary artifacts with the public.