Illuminating the Season: A “History” of Christmas on the Potomac

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JFK Xmas

One of the presidential cards from the Dorn collection: the young Kennedy family

Last week Herb told you about this year’s Christmas on the Potomac exhibit, which has added a festive touch at the front of Thomas Cooper Library. Long-time friends of South Carolina Political Collections may be aware that we do a holiday card exhibit every year, and each one is titled Christmas on the Potomac – our “brand” if you will.

Prior to moving into the beautiful Hollings Library building in 2010, SCPC was housed in a warehouse in the hinterlands near the Colonial Life Arena. Granted, with all the recent and somewhat hectic University development in the Vista, that area doesn’t seem so far removed as it used to be. But at the time the holiday season gave us a golden opportunity to remind campus of our departmental presence by installing a display of cards in a prominent location at the main library – the heart of campus.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola

These exhibits started out fairly small; the first, I believe, focused solely on presidential cards received by one of our foundational donors, Congressman Bryan Dorn. Over the years, however, we have expanded our coverage to three cases, highlighting not only presidential cards (still a favorite) but also greetings from other political figures, foreign ambassadors and consulates, schools, civic and charitable entities, and corporations such as Coca-Cola and Michelin. We actively solicit holiday cards from our collection donors in anticipation of our annual display.

Salvation Army

Salvation Army

We began to incorporate additional Christmassy decorations in the displays to improve the presentation of the cards and generally add extra cheer. Ornaments, bows, mini pine cones, mini “wrapped gifts,” and ribbons festooned the cases. There was even a year or two in which we attempted the use of tinsel – a sparkling component that proved to be more trouble than it was worth when the time came to remove it from the velvet surface of the cases!

exhibit

Part of this year’s exhibit

Speaking of ornaments, Herb has a personal collection of the official – and usually quite beautiful – ornaments produced annually by both the White House and Capitol historical offices. We include selections of these each year along with the cards, and they add a marvelous dimension to the display.

Kate with some of the ornaments

Kate with some of the ornaments

Every year, SCPC staffers look forward to this season when we can peruse the new cards, decide which will be included, and unleash our creative Christmas arranging and decorating instincts. We hope those who come by and see the exhibit find joy in it, too.

By Kate Moore

xmasboar

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