OHIO Archives

Ohio University Libraries Archives & Special Collections

Curating the Fall 2024 Presidential Elections Exhibit

Text and photos by Hester Lambright, History ’26, Spring 2024 Archives Intern

This semester I have been in the process of working with the Collection of Presidential Campaign Artifacts and my advisor Greta Suiter to help create an exhibit for the fall semester. My initial task during the first weeks of the semester was to look through the items in the collection. This included various boxes, drawers, and other objects that could not fit in containers. By the fifth week of the semester, I completed looking through the collection. However, this collection has over 4,500 items, so it feels as if every time I go back to look for a specific item, it seems like I find something I have not seen before!

The shelves on which most of the collection rests and the flat file drawers in which the large items, like bandanas, oversized images, newspapers, are stored.

Some of my favorite items I encountered included silly political cartoons, slogans, and bizarre objects (like a cigar from Taft’s presidency or campaign circa 1908-1912). The contents of the boxes were quite diverse, ranging from folders full of pictures of presidential candidates to boxes full of envelopes filled with pins (Alf Landon, although an unsuccessful candidate, had very aesthetic pins). I also enjoyed finding things I did not expect, songbooks, umbrellas, and paper lanterns.

A cartoon bear and possum dance in the center of the image. Floating circles with photos of candidates Teddy and Billy appear in the upper right and left hand corners.Pins decorated with flower petals on a table.Two postcards each with photo portraits of candidates flanking text in the center.political cartoon depicting cartoonists creating portraits of FDR each representing another term as president and showing FDR increasingly older.A song book held together with a ribbon, has a bird, lion, and US flag shield color illustration on the cover.Cigar with photo portrait of Taft wrapped around the center of the cigar.

After I finished looking through everything, the process of researching and creating captions began. I was able to create some about the elections and people I was interested in, however, I needed to see the items I planned to use for the exhibit in front of me to better organize my thoughts. That led to the past two weeks, in which I have spent pulling select items from the collection and then arranging them to visualize how they will fit into the display cases. This process helped me realize what items I am missing, if the items are too big, or if I have too many items on a topic.


Some of the various objects pulled from the collection for the exhibit, not including the larger objects.
Possible display for a section focusing on women’s involvement in campaigns.

I am currently in the stage of revising captions, searching for supplemental materials to add to the display that are not found in the presidential collection, and creating other texts, such as the introduction text. I am still in the process of coming up with a title for the exhibit!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my work thus far. It is so interesting to see the way in which campaigns have changed so much over the centuries or even how they have stayed the same, or dealt with the same issues we still see today. I always enjoy having an excuse to go back into the boxes and look through the items for a specific object I need. This project feels extremely relevant with the way the US is still in turmoil regarding politics. To work with this collection, I get a window into the past which reveals how much the US political system has evolved. That being said, I am a big fan of this collection from its most serious items to its most goofy.