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Day: August 13, 2013

“Souvenir Nation” by William L. Bird, Jr.

souvenir-nation

Souvenir Nation” by William L. Bird, Jr.

c.2013, Princeton Architectural Press
$24.95 / $29.95 Canada
176 pages

 

BOOK REVIEW
by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

You must have rocks in your head.

Surely, if not there, you’ll find them in the family room, the bathroom, and your child’s bedroom. Yes, your kids bring home rocks – along with driftwood, broken shells, a butterfly wing, and a cupful of pens with hotel names on the side, all keepsakes that somehow became important remembrances of summer fun.

To the average person, none of those things are worth a dime but to your family, they’re priceless. And in the new book “Souvenir Nation” by William L. Bird, Jr., you’ll see what odd treasures (real and imagined) reside in the Smithsonian Museum .

It seems horrifying today but the fact is that after George Washington died, there were no formal plans to preserve his estate. Visitors to the “crumbling” site “pried shards and fragments from Washington’s home” until 1852, when a distant nephew hired an entrepreneur to sell bits of it, including wood from the area around Washington’s tomb. Indeed, splinters of one of Washington ’s coffins (he had several) were also eventually parceled out.

Over the years, Americans collected bits and pieces of things they considered important and bequeathed them to various museums and government entities tasked with accepting those items. In 1835, funds from the estate of British natural philosopher James Smithson became available to establish a museum here in the States. Founded in 1850, it would be named the Smithsonian Institution.

The history of the Smithsonian itself is long, and includes argument, ego, and transferral of artifacts from one branch to another. In this book, author William Bird, Jr. devotes his attention to objects from the collection of the Division of Political History, National Museum of American history, Smithsonian Institution.

Some items are odd: a piece of ivy from Mount Vernon ; a napkin used by Napoleon; and locks of hair from presidents and “Persons of Distinction.”  Others almost missed being saved: the table and chairs used at Appomattox , and a dress cuff stained with Abraham Lincoln’s blood. And then there are things that delight: pieces of Franklin Roosevelt’s birthday cake; a suffrage pin; an Eisenhower and Nixon campaign bucket, and Teddy Roosevelt’s can opener.

Start “Souvenir Nation” and you may be tempted to put it down. The beginning of this book is filled with a long history about a history museum; it’s dry and somewhat hard to follow because it’s not very linear.

Stick around, though.

Author William L. Bird, Jr. gives readers this information in order to understand the significance of the tidbits and ephemera in the second half of his book. Without that prior knowledge, many of the items almost seem like junk. With it, each item (complete with pictures!) is more intriguing than the last.

Not quite as captivated by the first part of this book as I was with the last, I still found it very browse-able and good for a nice vacation-on-the-sofa kind of day. If that’s what you need, or if you’re a historian or pop-culture fanatic, “Souvenir Nation” will be a nice addition to your book collection.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

What did you do on your summer vacation?

 

Nick Wolfert and Levi Heinrichs prep for a morning shoot on Newberg Drive in Keizer. The duo and an ever-growing group of friends and acquaintences are making a short film this summer, set to premiere in September. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Nick Wolfert and Levi Heinrichs prep for a morning shoot on Newberg Drive in Keizer. The duo and an ever-growing group of friends and acquaintences are making a short film this summer, set to premiere in September. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes 

All they want is a shot of the car pulling away.

It seems like such a small thing to ask, but as more than half a dozen cars roll past with a mixture of nods, waves and intense staring at Levi Heinrichs holding a boom mic over the unfolding scene and Nick Wolfert operating a Canon D-SLR on a home-built shoulder-mount, it’s starting to feel like a tall order.

“We used to just point and shoot, but now I’m comfortable enough that I can play with how it looks,” said Wolfert, director. “Now, we can talk about how we want a certain scene to look, some are fluid and others are more shaky and intense.”

While some students would sit and whittle away the summer days playing video games or slumped in front of the television, Wolfert and a group of friends, who dub themselves The Pathetic 7, are making a film: The Adventure Movie.

“It’s about a big group of friends and one is a workaholic. They’re trying to get him to be less of one. They get kidnapped by a LARPing (Live Action Role-Playing) group, they get involved in a video game tournament and do yard work for a creepy girl who sprays them with a hose,” said Hunter Bomar, one of the leads.


To read the complete article and other news from around the Keizer area, pick up a copy of the August 9 print edition of Keizertimes, available at stores all around the area. To subscribe to the print edition for just $25 a year, click on the ‘Subscribe Today’ link at the top of the page, call 503-390-1051 or visit our office at 142 Chemawa Road North in Keizer.

Public Services Fair offers something for everyone

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Hot dogs, backhoes and adoptable pets: what more could a child want?

That and much more will be on hand at the Public Works Fair, taking place Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Keizer Rapids Park.

Jenniffer Warner, Public Works specialist with the City of Keizer, noted since 2005 the event had been held in May in conjunction with Public Works Week and was put on with assistance from the Keizer Fire District.

Last year, the event was moved to August and became focused on Public Works.

“We decided to do it in the summer to take advantage of a better chance of having better weather,” Warner said. “It’s an event for the general public to come, familiarize themselves with our public works services, get some educational information or ask questions. Basically, this event is to outreach and work with the community.”

According to Warner, last year’s event should be a good springboard to a bright future.


To read the complete article and other news from around the Keizer area, pick up a copy of the August 9 print edition of Keizertimes, available at stores all around the area. To subscribe to the print edition for just $25 a year, click on the ‘Subscribe Today’ link at the top of the page, call 503-390-1051 or visit our office at 142 Chemawa Road North in Keizer.