CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Dec. 13, 2000
Timely greeting card exhibit shows Christmases past
IOWA CITY- A recently acquired collection of greeting cards, some of which
date back to the early 1950s, is on exhibit at the University of Iowa Main
Libraries for free public viewing. The exhibit offers a timely and historical
look at the greeting card industry, one that produces more than 6 billion
cards annually, nearly one-fourth of which are sold during the Christmas season.
The collection, "My True Love Gave to Me," is on exhibit until
the end of January in the special collections department exhibition cases.
The exhibit's central theme is the "Partridge in a Pear Tree," taken
from the English Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas,"
says Richard Kolbet, a special collections librarian who organized the exhibit.
The cards used in the presentation were donated by Clarice Krieg, a UI alumnae
and former UI librarian. Krieg was catalog librarian at the UI from 1935 until
1941 before beginning a 35-year career as head of the catalog department at
the University of Oregon.
"Because Krieg was intrigued by the catchy tune and amusing words of
'The Twelve Days of Christmas,' she began to develop her collection in the
early 1950s when there was a renewed interest in that Renaissance carol.
"She purchased the partridge cards to send to family and friends, keeping
a copy for herself. As her personal collection grew, she was able to acquire
additional cards from friends and colleagues who were also interested in collecting
a variety of ephemera," Kolbet said.
Even though greeting cards are produced for more than 20 different holidays,
such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Chinese New Year, by their nature, they
are ephemeral and are typically accumulated in drawers along with old photos
and newspaper clippings, Kolbet says. Ultimately they are discarded, unlike
the extensive collection compiled by Krieg.
The collection exceeds 1,000 items, including more than 850 individual cards,
a number of versions of the book, "The Twelve Days of Christmas,"
and other related items such as boxed card sets, gift-wrappings, and shopping
"The importance of these types of collections is that they reflect
a microcosm of graphic artistry over an extended period and manifest popular
tastes in a continuum of cultural history," Kolbet said.
The exhibition was planned and prepared by Kolbet, and Kathy Hodson, Christa
Specht, and Anna Embree, all of the Libraries staff and is dedicated in special
appreciation to the late Judy Macy, a former Libraries staff member who conceived
the title of the exhibition.