From now through mid-June, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, home to the massive collection of vintage baseball cards donated by the late hobby pioneer Jefferson R. Burdick, is showcasing cards illustrating some of the earliest and most illustrious players who moved from the Negro Leagues into the Majors.
The Burdick collection is apparently going to be photographed and made available for online viewing according to a recent New York Magazine interview with Freyda Spira, assistant curator of the museum’s Department of Drawings and Prints.
Burdick is the founder of the American Card Catalog, which has given us the labels by which we reference vintage card sets today. His collection dates from 1887 to 1959 but baseball was only part of it. He accumulated over 300,000 “trade cards” in all.
Throughout the past several decades, collectors have come to the museum, hoping to page through the original albums full of vintage cards that Burdick collected. At times–and with an appointment–they were able to view at least part of it upon specific request. However, all of those fingers caused some of the cards to be damaged–and worse–and so, most of them remain in a temperature-controlled room, rarely seen by those who would appreciate them most.
Burdick was no mint freak. He collected when the only objective was to acquire what you didn’t have and he used several methods of storing his cards that would make collectors scream today, including stapling them into photo books. Still, the collection is among the best ever in terms of scope and it’s place in hobby history would make it a major online attraction.
Spira talked with New York about the current exhibit–and the museum’s decision to give the baseball cards that are on display a more prominent public position.