The Persistence of Memory

Editorial Staff Art

In her new book, Scrapbooks: An American History (Yale, 2008), Jessica Helfand suggests that in times of uncertainty people turn to the hobby. Scrapbooking and memory keeping is now a major industry in the United States and represents the largest segment of the nearly $30 billion craft industry. Memory keeping is certainly nothing new, particular in the world of antiques collecting, but, as a Victorian diorama recently acquired by Allan Katz Americana demonstrates, it can still be surprising.

This massive inset wall-mounted diorama (measuring 21 x 40 ½ x 11 inches), which has been titled A Moment in Time by Katz, preserves what appears to be the scene of a men’s club or a gathering of male family members. The diorama is believed to have come from a Baltimore estate, and is signed and dated “G.V. 1890.”

Combining handmade and printed paper elements, glass, metal, found objects, and photographic portraits, A Moment in Time preserves action as well as likeness in what is a truly impressive display of craftsmanship. Katz detects a professional hand at work here. “We have found that when pieces such as this come to market, they have a technical skill level that is far above a lay person,” he says. The fact that the diorama has never been opened and all of its pieces are intact makes it even more remarkable and intriguing.