At the Museum: The Poster Collection
Jill R. Chancey, PhD
One of the little-known collections of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is our selection of travel posters and war propaganda posters of the 20th century. The first director of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Miss Ella Bradley, began the collection, which ultimately reached nearly a thousand total. War-related posters came to the LRMA Library from the government as a public service, and the travel posters were also sent out free to public organizations. Rather than using them and throwing them out, Miss Bradley saved them, and even stored many of the larger ones under the rug in what is now the Reading Room. Eventually this enormous collection was retrieved, moved to safer storage, and inventoried.
By 1999, a full inventory was completed with the assistance of Nicho Lowry of Swann Galleries in New York City, and the Museum determined to keep and frame a representative selection of those posters which were of high quality and in good condition. A number of duplicate copies and posters of lesser quality or worse condition were sold at auction to benefit the Museum’s Acquisitions Fund. These posters have always been part of the library collection, and are not accessioned into the art collection. The lesser restrictions on the library collection allow us to lend them to institutions that are not museums, such as the Saenger Theater in Hattiesburg or the Historical Society in Columbia.
Starting this week, a selection of the Museum’s travel posters will be on display in the Lower Level Galleries. In the wake of the first World War (1914-1918) and before the Great Depression, European nations had been left in a state of chaos and depression, while the United States had become one of the richest countries in the world. The following decade saw an industrial boom in America. The automobile became a symbol of prosperity and mobility, and a rapidly growing middle class had the means to travel for leisure. During this boom, posters were one of the most effective tools for selling travel. Art Deco, a geometric style of the 1920s and 1930s, quickly emerged as the most popular style for designers in the United States and Europe. The Art Deco style can be found in graphics, architecture, product design, and the fine arts throughout the period. Some graphic designers, however, were more strongly influenced by Cubism, which emerged in Paris around 1908 and continued to have an enormous influence through the 1940s. The Museum’s selection of posters reflect a variety of graphic design trends, and serve to remind us that travel was once glamorous and luxurious, particularly aboard ocean liners.
The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Check the website for upcoming Summer events and classes. For information about LRMA exhibitions and programs, call (601) 649-6374 or check our website at www.LRMA.org.