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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 bags.

"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.