Many times a collection will come into the archives with duplicate materials. While we would like to keep everything, that is not always possible or practical. Most of the time we will keep a couple examples of the item, and discard the remainder. To be more specific, if a collection comes in with 50 copies of the same poster, we will keep two or three. This allows us to study and learn from the piece, but also to conserve space.
Earlier this year I cataloged the records of the Greater Hartford Chapter of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (MS 86607, 2.5 linear feet). Incorporated in 1950, the papers reflect activity until 1965. The collection contains papers and records compiled by the UNESCO officers, including the chapter’s treasurers, secretaries, and chairmen. Other items include membership lists, UN Day program material, a variety of UN/UNESCO publications, account books, and copies of the by-laws.
Since 1948 the United Nations has celebrated UN Day each year on October 24 (you may visit the UN’s web site to learn more about this year’s activities). Posters were printed for one of the celebrations in the early 1950s. The Greater Hartford group had many left over, and they had been kept among the records over the past 50+ years. As I alluded above, I kept a few of the posters, and discarded the rest. I also kept one for the bulletin board in my office.
The poster is very representative of life in the United States during the 1950s. World War II had brought patriotism to a peak. The flag in front of the family was something to be proud of. The men who had gone off to protect our country, were now back at home protecting their families. It was a time when everyone was thought to be the same. Families, such as the one in the poster, were buying houses in the suburbs and consumer products to fill the houses. Sadly, this was also a time of segregation. If a poster were printed today, promoting freedom, peace, and security of the United States, it is very likely the poster would feature the ethnic diversity of our nation. Obviously, the 1950s poster did not.
Are there any school children reading this? Here is a trivia question for you. How do we know, just by looking at the poster, that it was printed before 1959? Post your answer as a comment to this blog! Need a hint? Think about where President Barack Obama grew up, and where Sarah Palin was governor.