Michiganders have a powerful love of Christmas. Never a people to exhibit excessive pride, one nonetheless detects a sort of edge to the pitch of Christmastime in the Midwest, with aggressive hospitality expressed through homemade holiday cookie exchange, festive sweaters worn without a trace of irony, and of course, adorning the Christmas tree with a selection of ornaments carefully curated over a lifetime of collecting. Here is where Hallmark corporation has staked out territory in many a Christmas-celebrating US home.
Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments were first produced in 1973, and have maintained a foothold in Christmas tradition ever since. Each year sees the introduction of a new set of ornaments, which present a mix of nostalgia, population culture themes, and of course, Santa-centric imagery. While the earliest ornaments conformed to the basic ball shape with different decorative surface treatments, by 1975, the company was beginning to branch out in the direction of molded 3D figures and shapes.
Now Michganders and fans of the holiday season culture can rejoice, as the Henry Ford Museum is now home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments ever assembled. The museum acquired 6,600 ornaments from Indiana Hallmark retailer, the Party Shop, in November, and has a small selection currently on display for this Christmas season. Ornaments in the collection date from 1973 to 2009, and include Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Collectors Club, and miniatures and lighted ornaments, as well as Dream Books, banners, and a small collection of the store’s documents and point-of-purchase displays. A more permanent display of the acquisition is in the works, but a storefront-style exhibition case is already open, to showcase a few of the highlights.
“Hallmark’s Keepsake ornaments have become an essential part of Americans’ holiday traditions,” said Patricia Mooradian, president & CEO of The Henry Ford, in a press release announcing the acquisition. “Over the years Hallmark has transformed the way we decorate for the holidays by taking risks and rethinking the design, technology and marketing of its products — all while remaining true to their vision and core values.”
The collection seems like a great fit for the Henry Ford, whose collection includes a great number of motifs and objects memorialized by Hallmark in their ornaments. For example, the life-sized Oscar Meyer Wienermobile is parked within eyeshot of the ornament case where it is presented in miniature for the 2001 HKO collection. The museum also has trains, classic cars, and an entire working diner — all of which fall within the popular aesthetics for Hallmark ornaments.
So if your Christmas plans include a visit to Holiday Nights at THF’s Greenfield Village, where nighttime holiday revelers can take carriage rides, wander the historical museum grounds, and be subjected to frankly quite disturbing throwback wassailing, remember that on the adjacent campus is a collection of heartwarming Hallmark moments, just waiting to make you say, “Ooh!” “Ah!” and occasionally, “Huh.”