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Souvenir Nation
Relics, Keepsakes, and Curios from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
William L. Bird, Jr.

ISBN 9781616891350
Publication date 04/17/2013
7 x 8.5 inches (17.8 x 21.6 cm), Hardcover
176 pages, 65 color illustrations, 10 b/w illustrations
Rights: World; ( 5,170 .0)

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Buried within the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History exists an astonishing group of historical relics from the pre-Revolutionary War era to the present day, many of which have never been on display. Donated to the museum by generations of souvenir collectors, these ordinary objects of extraordinary circumstance all have amazing tales to tell about their roles in American history. Souvenir Nation presents fifty of the museum's most eccentric items. Objects include a chunk broken off Plymouth Rock; a lock of Andrew Jackson's hair; a dish towel used as the flag of truce to end the Civil War; the microphones used by FDR for his Fireside Chats; and the chairs that seated Nixon and Kennedy in their 1960 television debate.

Smithsonian curator William L. Bird, Jr., regales us with the story of each artifact's origins and the quirks of fate that brought it to the museum. Strikingly photographed, these curious objects form a uniquely American narrative: a cabinet of curiosities representing our nation's most fascinating individuals, both celebrated and obscure, and the keepsakes they left behind. This fascinating collection of Americana includes an introductory essay on this nation's passion for souvenir collecting, as well as a brief history and a glimpse behind the scenes of the Smithsonian. An accompanying exhibition opens in Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Castle in Fall 2013.

William L. Bird, Jr. is a historian and curator at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. He is the author of Holidays on Display and Paint By Number, both from Princeton Architectural Press.


Editorial Reviews
"Showcases the weird and wonderful relics that tell the story of U.S. history."

Designers & Books:
"These carefully saved items appear trivial at first glance, unworthy of interest, until a viewer learns of a reason to care about this ancient napkin (it was Napoleon's!), this shard of rock (chiseled from Plymouth Rock!), this lock of hair (cut from the head of Sir Walter Scott!). Once the cultural significance is established, we instinctively feel: Of course these things are important; of course they deserve to be saved and put on display!"

"A fascinating peek at times gone by, when the concept of preserving a moment or memory meant something way different than picking up a few postcards."

ForeWord Reviews:
"All told, Souvenir Nation not only sparks a warm feeling of American spirit but an appreciation for those who collect, preserve, and keep history in a more personal context."

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