Some of the most fascinating archival collections focus on a single kind of ephemera. These topical collections are entertaining to browse while also offering unexpected insights into the past. Chicago’s Busy Beaver Button Museum is one of the finest (and, at times, funniest) collections of ephemera published in The Scout Report this year. This collection of hundreds of pinback buttons spans over a century and includes at once, poignant buttons, political buttons, irreverent buttons, and a few truly dated buttons. The highlight of this digitized collection just might be the Beaver page, which features solely buttons related to beavers.
Ever since pinback buttons were patented in 1896, buttons have been produced and worn for a plethora of reasons, from supporting a politician (e.g. the iconic I LIKE IKE buttons), to commemorating an event, to just showing off the pinner’s sense of humor. The Busy Beaver Button Museum exists to document this unique item of cultural expression. Readers may visit the museum in person, in Chicago, or browse the comprehensive online collection here. Categories include Ask Me, which includes the classic “Ask me about…” buttons, Self Referential, which includes buttons that reference the fact that they’re buttons, and Sports, Advertising, Political, Innovative, and other descriptive options. There is also a Fan Museum, which allows users to submit their own buttons, as well as browse the buttons of other fans. The News section features blog posts on the history of buttons, such as a great post on the history behind the right to vote, as depicted through buttons. Finally, readers will also find a wonderful book, A Very Brief History of Buttons, which can be viewed for free as a PDF.