In preparing for our Mass Digitization project, I have felt an increasing interest in our famed collector, Mr. Sidney N. Shure. I knew he had a massive stamp collection, and I knew of his association with the Shure microphone company. But who was Mr. Shure? I went to our accession files to find some answers.
Accession files, as I have written about before ("Call Me Sherlock"), are the museum’s way of tracking all the objects we have in our collection: where they all came from, what their personal histories are. Often in this files, we can see a glimpse of the donors who offered their collections to us. Sidney Shure donated his collection to the Smithsonian over the course of thirty years, so he had several files for me to peruse.
From the files, I learned a little more about the collection and the nature of the relationship between Sidney Shure and the Smithsonian. But I didn’t learn what interested me the most: how did Mr. Shure become interested in collecting stamps from Palestine and Israel? Thankfully for me, a memo in one accession file, dated 1988, referenced the transfer of some philatelic literature removed from the accession, and now stored in the library.
A word to the wise: befriend your local librarian!
I emailed our librarian, Baasil Wilder, who was incredibly helpful in pulling together some great material for me. Included in this was an article from the Israel-Palestine Philatelic Society of America, Monograph No. 2, and dated February 1950. The article was written by Dr. Kurt Steinberg, and was edited by S.N. Shure. My Sidney N. Shure! The article focused on a particular stamp in a particular region in the Palestine Mandate transition to Israel. However, the introduction to the article offered this insight into how Dr. Steinberg became interested in collecting stamps from Safad, a region highly embroiled in the newly created State of Israel:
Safad was the site of an exciting chapter in contemporary history, and the stamp of Safad in its origin, its postal status, and its production, is probably the most interesting of the interim period between the end of the Mandate Administration in Palestine and the beginning of the State of Israel (Steinberg, 1950).
While these are not the words of Mr. Shure, I feel as though he felt similarly in his collecting interests. As a Jewish man, the creation of the State of Israel was an exciting and fascinating time in history. Mr. Shure’s stamp collection illustrates his deep interest in understanding the current events of the area.
It is my hope that the digitization, imaging and publishing of Mr. Shure’s significant collection is in keeping with Mr. Shure’s intention in donating the collection to the Smithsonian so many years ago. We are once again bringing this important collection to the forefront of philately.