Monday, December 21, 2009

Saving Hobby History

One shift turned into two back-to-back shifts, thus playing havoc on my schedule. Fooey. It'll be worse in January, when the part-time job temporarily turns full-time, with overtime, and insane. (It's not as awesome as it sounds. Trust me. Other income-making opportunities are welcome.) Not sure if I'm going to cope with it here – write shorter posts, pre-write a bunch, or some combination of the two. We'll cross that proverbial bridge when we come to it.

Back to the Hobby History project.

When I talk to “outsiders” about the model horse hobby, many of them get the impression that it's a relatively new phenomenon, like PEZ collecting. PEZ dispensers have been around for about the same amount of time as Breyer Horses – since the early 1950s – but there wasn't an active or huge PEZ collecting/hobby community until the early 1990s. (I should know: I was one of attendees of the first PEZ convention, the famed Dispens-O-Rama, in 1991! Yes, it was several different flavors of awesome, including Anise.)

So when I tell them that the hobby has been around in some form, in the U.S., since the late 1950s, I get the usual eye-rolls and incredulous looks. So I'll go to my archives and pull out a couple of pieces of documentation to straighten out the wiseacre, including this neat article from the September, 1961 issue of Western Horseman:

Yup, that's an Old Mold Mare they are holding. There's a App FAM and several H-R minis visible, and that's a pot metal Western Horse on the shelf. A favorite quote from the brief article beneath:

“The miniature saddle maker's artistic talents also include pencil sketching and refinishing horse statutes in such colors as real animals.”

Unlike Breyer History, we actually have quite a lot of Hobby History ephemera out there. Prior to the Internet, the hobby was a paper-intensive affair: letters, newsletters, photo shows, the occasional newspaper or magazine articles brought us together and bound us together. I can remember stalking the mailbox on a daily basis, anxiously waiting for the next precious communique from the Model Horse Universe. A big, fat envelope with my name on it = much happiness!

As a student of history, I'm also interested in saving the hobby's collective history, not just of Breyer Horses. Aside from the research opportunities it would provide (i.e. being able to track when certain terms were invented, when color and mold changes occurred, etc.) it'd also provide us some standing and credibility to the Outside World. Showing the Outside World that we've been around for about fifty years will go quite a ways towards taking us more seriously, and proving that we're not a fad, and we're not going away.

Besides, other avocations with papery origins, most notably Science-Fiction and Comic Book Fandom, have made vocal and visible efforts to preserve their history and ephemera, so why not us? Science-fiction fandom just celebrated its 80th anniversary, in fact! (And some are celebrating by trying to find out what happened to First Fandom's first club president. Cool!)

There's just one problem: most hobbyists shared my sentimental attachment to this paper, and are loathe to give it up.

I've been trying for some time now to save the physical remnants of our collective history and create at least the rudiments of a hobby archive. I've made a few excellent recoveries and discoveries, but most hobbyists don't want to surrender the tangible evidence of their fondest childhood memories. Then there's the contentious question of who becomes the repository: everyone who has a bigger than average pile of stuff wants to be home of THE archive (including me!)

I first became involved on Blab when my name came up in a potential hobby history project; our initial efforts didn't get very far, for a variety of reasons. The topic came up again, in connection with the epic “future of the hobby” thread, and it looks like we might get a little bit further along this time. For one thing, a Facebook page has already been created to help collect and coordinate our collective efforts, and begin the effort to collect oral histories. A link to that page has been provided in my Links of Interest, to the right.

Next post – back to plain ol' Breyer History. Promise!


Little Black Car said...

Alas, I no longer have my old THHN's, nor many of my JAH's except the earliest ones (the small format that they were using when I started subscribing in 1985 or 1986). I don't think I have many catalogs left, either. I do still have my Breyer membership card, though. The used to send you one with a new JAH subscription.

I'm an office assistant in an historical archive. To anyone who reads this: Save your paper stuff. Digital is great for sharing information but it's far too unstable, and the technology changes too quickly, for it to be a viable storage medium.

My computer has neither disk drive nor ZIP drive, so anything I have in those formats--which I used all the time up until a couple of years ago--is effectively lost. Also, home-burned CD's don't have a known lifespan, so stuff that we think we have saved may turn out to be scrambled when we try to access it 10 years from now (if computers still have CD drives, that is . . . ).

ANDREA said...

Yes, very important point. Paper is far more stable than any electronic format that now exists.

I'm not so worried about THHN or JAH; they look like what magazines should look like, so people are more likely to save them.

I'm a little more concerned about the mimeo and xerox 'zines of the 1960s, '70s and '80s. They don't look like conventional magazines, and tend to get mixed in and tossed out with the rest of one's old paper.

Anonymous said...

I had a bunch of old MHSJ's. However, as they got older the type disappeared and I was left with a bunch of blank papers stapled together! They weren't even readable at all, so I threw them away!

Wonder what happened to the models that girl in that Western Horseman story had?