Friday, September 27, 2013

Work continues on A Secret Gift

I have spent most of the past two weeks working on the Keller Gallery exhibit A Secret Gift, which opens November 15.  We're also having a special preview the night before at a Soup at Six event, featuring guest speaker Eric Benjamin, composer of the piece commissioned by the Canton Symphony Orchestra based on A Secret Gift.

As you are surely aware, A Secret Gift is the One Book, One Community selection for 2013.  There are a ton of activities related to the book all around town, beginning in October.  Click here for a complete list.

All of this hoopla coincides with the 80th anniversary of Sam Stone's anonymous Christmas gifts to 150 families in need in December 1933.

Here are some highlights of the exhibit:
  • Ted Gup donated all of the letters, thank you notes, and cancelled checks to our archives.  (He kept one set -- Helen Palm)  We are highlighting 14 letter writers in the exhibit.  Color photocopies of the letters and checks will be available in the gallery for guests to read.  Original letters will be on display in cases.
  • Ted has loaned us several important artifacts as well.  The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a re-creation of Sam Stone's office, including a large set of office furniture he used.  Ted believes this is where Sam and Minna (Ted's grandparents) wrote the checks.  Ted has also loaned us the suitcase where he found the letters, an copy of A Christmas Carol as read by Dr. Delbert Lean of Wooster College (autographed by Lean!), and copies of A Secret Gift published in other languages.
  • Artifacts from the Museum's collection include house dresses, the sign from the Fairmount Children's Home, a feed chopper from the Dick Manufacturing Company, a milk can from Superior Dairy, a Hoover vacuum cleaner made in 1933, and a 1933 record book from the Stark County Infirmary.  These artifacts relate to some of the letter writers' stories.
  • Other artifacts from the era will include Depression glass, toys, household items, a 1933 McKinley High School yearbook, and much more!
  • The exhibit will also feature documents relating to Mary Margo's story, salesman's samples and toys built by Frank Dick, and a kitchen table that belonged to Rachel DeHoff.  These things have been donated or loaned by descendents of the letter writers themselves.
  • We have identified the location of almost every letter writer which we have marked on a 1934 Canton map.  We are also including a complete list of every letter writer.  Museum visitors can make an appointment with our Archivist to view any of the letters. (Except, of course, the ones that are on display!  Those will be available after the exhibit closes on February 2, 2014.)
  • The exhibit will also contain contextual information explaining the causes of the Great Depression, as well as a price list of common consumer goods in 1933.  Sam's gifts were $5, but that is the equivalent of $100 today.
  • A multimedia presentation in the exhibit will include footage from Sam Stone's home movies, news clips and interviews with Ted, and snippets of descendents reading letters at the Palace event Ted hosted in 2010 when the book was released.
We hope to see you at the free exhibit opening on November 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM.   Or at the Soup at Six event on November 14.  Cost is $15 per person, and it's filling up FAST!  If you want to come, please get your reservations in soon.  Call 330-455-7043.

Here is a sneak peek at one of the things I'm including in the exhibit:

Out of 150 checks, this is the only one where Minna started to sign her own name, but crossed out the "M" and wrote "B. Virdot" instead.

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