Christmas in the Archives

Archival institutions across Canada (and the world) often contain some ephemeral material.  Some of my  favourite types of ephemera are postcards and greeting cards.  Given the approaching holiday, here’s a glimpse at holiday themed ephemera.

This item is from the  Kenneth Rowe fonds held by Library and Archives Canada.  This fonds contains a number of scrapbooks and folios with printed material – including the Christmas cards seen to the left. These Canadian Christmas cards are dated

circa 1877-1878.

A Christmas postcard sent to Reg Sherwood by Ada Broderick in 1908.  This postcard is part of the collection held by the Burlington Public Library.  The library’s collection is searchable on OurOntario.

A Christmas card from Superior Paul C. O’Connor of the  Society of Jesus of St. Mary’s Mission at Akulurak, Alaska to Assistant Director Charles G. Burdick of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ Alaska Region, circa December 20, 1938.

Held by the National Archives and Records Administration, and part of the Records of the Forest Service, 1870-2008 group.  

December #builtheritage chat

This month’s #builtheritage twitter chat focused on preservation and the holidays.  There was an abundance of good festive promotion ideas,  examples of seasonal events, and

First portion of the chat focused on the question, How can you use the holidays to promote your historic site? Some of the proposed activities included:

  • Displaying old holiday photos on site or on social media
  • Holding seasonally themed events -teas, crafts, tours, etc
  • Holiday snacks! 
  • Holiday theater stage at the heritage site, eg. the Christmas Carol
  • Combine with other local events your activities with other local holiday events
  • For example, the distillery district in Toronto christmas market, draws thousands 
  • Watson’s Mill in Ottawa hosted a Christmas Fair and Art Show this past wknd.
  • As a backdrop to other heritage events, or as a venue for private holiday functions
  • Family ornament decorating activities

Second question of the chat, what is the most successful holiday program you have been to/organized at an historic site? Favourites included:


Third segment of the chat dealt with, How can we encourage people to shop locally in historic main streets?

  • Combine moonlight madness with other activities such as skating, caroling, etc.
  • Hold a Christmas festival downtown, and encourage all shops to decorate windows 
  • The main streets are just perfect for decorating – light it up!
  • Provide more parking
  • Ask the community what they want

The chat concluded with a discussion of How do you make sure your holiday activities are as inclusive (and/or multicultural) as possible?

  •  Heritage groups, municipalities should encourage all constituencies to celebrate their holiday traditions.
  • Having personalized items that can be customizable for any holiday
  • The new inclusive is to do lots of niche activities
  • Let the historic places speak for themselves. The best places evolve and change with the times if we let them

There was also some discussion about what topics participants would like to see in the 2012 #builtheritage chats.  Some suggestions included focusing on main street design issues, preservation 2.0, or the integration of youth in heritage groups.

Seasonal Exhibits: Holiday Heritage

It’s that time of year, Christmas merchandise has already started to fill the malls, and the beginning of the commercial holiday season is looming ever closer.  In the heritage field a lot of organizations are beginning to plan and develop exhibits and activities that coincide with the upcoming holidays. 

As a child, one of my favourite holiday related exhibits was put on by the Dufferin County Museum and Archives.  It focused on old toys and games.  I remember thinking it was like seeing a window into the holidays off the past.  A lot of museums and archives use the holiday season to display items from their collection relating to the holidays, winter, and seasonal celebrations.

Many heritage organizations also use the holidays to their advantage by holding fundraisers and seasonal workshops.  Bake sales, wreath making tutorials, Christmas teas, food drives, and craft/art shows are some of the common fundraisers. Heritage house and light tours are also often undertaken during the holiday season.

What are some of your heritage holiday memories? What is your institution doing in preparation for the upcoming holiday season?

Photo Credit: sickofstatistics