The Archival blog started in 2006 as a place to presevere ephemeral print, digitized scans and new digital catalog content. Originally, I posted scans of my own outdoor clothing catalogs from the US and UK. Later, I expanded to include images from Japanese web shops selling Japan-only garb by US and European outdoor labels like CC Filson, North Face, Danton, Barbour and Brady.
Over the years, I was only able to capture a fraction of the catalogs produced by outdoor recreation companies from the early 1920s to the present. Fast forward to 2020, the Special Collections and Archives unit at Utah State Libraries has launched a collection dedicated to preserving and making available outdoor recreation catalogs and related publications. The Outdoor Recreation Catalogs Collection is made up of more thant “1,600 issues from nearly 400 companies, including manufacturers like Lowe Alpine and Sierra Designs to retailers like Eastern Mountain Sports and REI.”
Why preserve product catalogs? In addition to showing how outdoor gear has changed over time, they showcase how branding and marketing around outdoor gear has evolved. As the collections notes indicate, “They also tell us a great deal about consumers, including their style preferences and how they experienced the outdoors.”
If you can’t visit Utah State to view the colletion, check out their digital exhibit featuring catalog covers of many gear brands including quite a few that have been lost to time. Here is a selection of some of my favorites (reposted with permission):