On the Campaign (Artifacts) Trail
By Jamie Snyder, MC&E Summer Collections Intern
During my internship at KHS this summer, I spent a lot of time working with the Drexell R. Davis Collection. This is a great collection with more than 2,200 items of political memorabilia donated by Mr. Davis over a 20-year period.
The majority of the collection consists of political buttons, but it also features other novelty items such as ribbons, license plates, thimbles, bubblegum cigars and nail files. I think this collection is of value and interest to the public, especially for those who are very interested in the political process. And as it includes items that date back to the early 20th century, it also should appeal to anyone curious about politics in 20th century American history.
As part of my internship I was to catalog and inventory the collection’s various artifacts and rehouse part of it as well. Reorganizing and rehousing this collection would allow KHS staff, interns, volunteers and researchers to find the artifacts much more efficiently.
In the past, the collection was organized based on donation year. However, this was not the most efficient method because when pulling a shelf from the collection you might find several types of items on it, from buttons and ribbons to Styrofoam campaign hats and license plates.
I decided it would be best to organize by campaign and then candidate; in other words, it would be most effective to organize in chronological order according to campaign. However, if I was not able to determine campaign (for example, there were artifacts that could span several years rather than exact election years), then it would be best to organize the artifacts in chronological order according to the range of years a candidate was in public office.
Next, I had to determine how these artifacts could fit together in storage and if some items should be separated. I decided to separate the political buttons from the rest of the political memorabilia (i.e., ribbons, badges and other novelty items). The other items will also be separated further by category.
Finally, I had to decide how the political buttons would be housed and what kinds of materials would be needed for their rehousing. Most of the collection is already contained in polyethylene plastic zip lock bags. However, other materials might also be required such as acid-free cardstock to support any buttons that will be standing on their sides, artifact boxes for the smaller buttons and blue board dividers to surround larger buttons.
There were several very interesting items that I came across during cataloging and inventory, such as a set of Happy Chandler membership cards and a miniature Styrofoam campaign hat. But I think the item that struck me most was a bow-tie from one of FDR’s political campaigns, as it connected this internship to one that I had previously at FDR’s Little White House.
The rehousing will continue to progress with those who work on this collection now that my internship at KHS is over, but I am glad to have assisted on this project. What I was able to achieve would not have been possible without the help and support of KHS staff, volunteers and interns.
There is a great sense of community at KHS that made my internship a fun and rewarding experience.