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Culture is expressed in bumper stickers
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Anyone who still remembers late Tribune Managing Editor Bob Fairbanks will remember that he was “Mr. Republican.”
So it should come as no surprise that he might have though kindly of Pres. Dwight Eisenhower.
And after Bob passed away in 1988. There was an old bumper sticker in the back of one of his desk drawers that referenced the iconic “I Like Ike” signs. Apparently coming from the Kennedy administration, the red, white and blue sticker simply read, “I Miss Ike!”
Bob was ahead of his times, collecting bumper stickers, though, to be fair, he was probably more interested in the sentiment than in collecting.
Elsewhere in the nation, there a different story going on.
Many museums are keeping collections of bumper stickers because, like the one Bob had kept, they do represent the popular sentiment. They are a visual reminder of popular culture.
The problem is, these stickers were never intended for long life, and that has caused a problem for archivists — until recently.
Thanks to a librarian from the University of Kansas, these historic images can be maintained, despite their sticky and potentially fragile condition.
According to Whitney Baker, the bumper sticker owes a lot to Kansas, as a recent Associated Press article noted: “She says most people attribute the creation of the bumper sticker in the late 1940s and early 1950s to a Kansas City, Kan., screen printer named Forest P. Gill.
“Libraries and institutions such as the University of Kansas have added them to their collections because they are such an important part of pop culture. But Baker says preserving them can be tricky. If stacked, they can adhere together. And those made of vinyl emit gasses that can damage nearby items.
“She says they need to be separated from one another, separated from other materials, and stored upright.”
That’s good to know, if you are interested in preserving this slice of Americana.
It is inherent in the American car culture to express yourself with your statement on the bumper and future generations may understand us better, thanks to the preservation techniques that Baker is pioneering.
This is a part of our material culture that will tell the future what we were really thinking — for better or worse.
— Chuck Smith