The theme of ephemera for this issue is particularly relevant to the library and its collection. Most visitors and researchers see and use the more common materials, such as books and journals, that are found in the public space of the library. But within its more than 93,000 items, the APRL collection also has a number of materials, some of which are exclusive to philately, that grace its shelves and archival spaces. Among the items that may not be found at other research libraries are materials such as stamp show programs, stamp albums, post road maps, new issues posters and, in our archival collections, three-dimensional items, such as printing plates, mailboxes, handstamps and postal uniforms to name a few. Even the more common materials, such as philatelic auctions catalogs and name sales can be categorized as being unique to the hobby and its research.
But one of the truly interesting collections of philatelic ephemera is the library’s approximately 300 antique stamp boxes, also referred to as “stampboxes,” “stamp holders” and “stamp cases.” These small boxes, designed to hold and protect postage stamps and sometimes other small items like coins, matches, paper and pencils, gained popularity with the advent of street letter boxes and home mail delivery in the 1880s.
Stamp cases began to be produced toward the end of 19th century using gold, silver and wood. The most popular shapes of these novelty boxes were the envelope- and mailbag-style stamp cases, which were made in enormous quantities, mostly in silver. These cases provide yet another avenue into the history of stamp collecting. The library’s collection of the stamp boxes is housed in the APRL Archives and is available by appointment in the library for research use.
A couple of 3-D items in the APRL’s collection: a stamp box in the shape of a mailbag and a stamp box holding a stamp and a coin. Below, a stamp box advertisement from the March 1889 edition of The American Philatelist.
Digital library update
Starting back in late February we began the first phase of uploading materials into the Robert A. Mason Digital Library from the backlog of journals for which we have received publication permissions from societies and clubs. We currently have permissions for 51 journals, 13 books and 303 exhibits. We are beginning this stage of the project by focusing on journals that are already in digital form (i.e. pdf, tiff, jpg formats) in order to expedite the completion of the majority of the backlog and to make the best use of staff time. We are reserving those materials which necessitate scanning pages from the original papers copies for a later time.
Under the supervision of Technical Services Manager Marian Mills, our Digital Projects Specialists Betsy Gamble and Geoff Hobart completed their training in February and as of March 1 proceeded with the task of uploading journals into the digital library.
Geoff Hobart processes files for the digital library.
Betsy and Geoff make use of three dedicated workstations complete with the necessary ContentDM Project Client software in order to process the digital files into the database. The journals will be processed and uploaded in the order in which publication permissions were received. To start this phase, we began uploading the Penny Post journal (organ of the Carriers and Locals Society) and The Menelik’s Journal (organ for the Ethiopian Philatelic Society).
As of this writing we have processed and uploaded more than 4,000 pages in just the first month of the project, averaging about 39 journal issues a week and 156 journal issues per month. Our initial target for this phase of the backlog was 25 journal issues a week and 100 issues a month, so we are currently reaching and exceeding our initial targets. These ratios may change over the coming months but we are very excited about the progress and the work being done by Betsy and Geoff. There will be further updates regarding our progress in next month’s column.
The vast donation that was received from the family of Dr. Herbert Trenchard continues to be sorted and processed. To date, we have processed eight of the 24 pallets and the shelving of the needed material into the APRL collection is ongoing. With this influx of a large number of auction catalogs from the donation, some of which were from auction houses new to collection, the library’s auction catalog shelving capacity needed to be expanded.
Regular library volunteers Kitty Wunderly and Bill Monsell set about the task of clearing new shelving space in the auction catalog area of the library and then re-shelving the existing material, providing the necessary space for the Trenchard material. In addition, we also look forward to Volunteer Work Week (June 18-22) when we anticipate having those volunteering in the library assist us with unboxing and sorting portions of the Trenchard donation. If you are interested in attending Volunteer Work Week and helping us in the library or other APS departments you can read more about it and register on the APS website (stamps.org/learn/volunteer-work-week).