Wednesday, January 28, 2009

InfoArch: My Collection

For my collection, I have chosen to use bar coasters that I borrowed from a good friend of mine. He has collected over 150 bar coasters throughout the past few years from all over the country. While most of the coasters are from bars, they all vary in shape, thickness, durability, color, typography, graphics, and even informative content. They do share a common purpose, however, and that is to act as a coaster for alcoholic beverages. I decided to narrow down his collection by sorting out the coasters I felt would fit great as a cohesive set of about 20 coasters. I went with coasters that advertise certain beer products only. These include popular beers such as Michelob, Heineken, Bud Light, Budweiser, Miller Light, Samuel Adams, Corona, etc.

Now that I have my chosen coasters to complete my collection, I got to play the role of a Museum Curator and figured out different ways that I could organize my collection by sorting them. In class, we had a group brainstorming session to come up with all of the possibilities of how a collection could be classified or organized. Here are some pictures of the brainstorming list we came up with.

The sorting methods I chose for my specific collection are:

1. Durability-----> How durable the coaster is based on the material it is made from (paper vs. cardboard)

2. History of the Beer-----> Chronological order based on when each beer was invented from oldest to newest. 

3. Informative Quality-----> How descriptive or instructional the coaster is versus how uninformative it is (some have just an image or beer logo, while others have jokes, quotes, history facts, and other information)

4. Shape/Size-----> How the coasters compare to each other from big to small or square to round, etc.

5. Alphabetization of Brand of Beer-----> I'll sort them from A-Z based on the advertised beer on the coaster.

I decided to research bar coasters in general to find out more about them. Because this collection was given to me, I have to take time to educate myself about the act of collecting bar coasters and learn about the history of them. I am not a beer drinker, so I also know very little about beer or the history of certain kinds of beer. There are about 12 different types of beer in my collection so I will have to research the history of each brand so that I will have knowledge on them. I think that by choosing a collection that I know almost nothing about will be a great challenge and teach me how to adapt to and work with something that I am not entirely attached to. 

People who collect beer mats or coasters are called TEGESTOLOGISTS, according to This website
had a lot of information about Tegestology, which is a Latin term defined as the practice of ‘collecting beermats or coasters’. Typically testologists will concentrate on historical or social changes within specific time frames, designs, topics, use and of course the engineering processes used in their production. Many of these collectors will have huge collections and many of them spend a great deal of time exchanging series mats, swapping information sources and there is also a brisk trade in the re-sale of specific beermats.

Testologists will also collect beermats with spelling errors, which are particularly sought after, as well as those printed in different languages and those used to ‘proof’ the print prior to going to the press.

Ian Calvert published a book in 2006 titled A Guide to Collecting Beermats and this is an excellent resource for experienced testologists or those that want to join the club as a serious collector. There are also a number of websites devoted to testologists, these would include the British Beermat Collectors Society, as well as the International Collectors Association, based in Germany. There are also, amongst others, two based in Australia, these are the ’South Australian Coaster Collectors Club’ and the ’New South Wales Coaster Collectors Club’.

Beer coasters (beer mats) are typically a small square cardboard mat, often with an advertisement for a brewery on it, that is used to rest one's glass on, and to protect the surface of a table or a bar in a pub. In general, bar coasters are a form of advertising for an operation that utilizes them. It is customary to "ask" the waitress or bartender "IF" you can have one. Most times they will happily say yes. However, sometimes with the smaller bars, those coasters can cost a lot of money to replace and the operation may not be able to afford having their coasters leave with you.

So, I learned that there are individuals that collect coasters for the enjoyment and have massive collections of them that date backwards for many years. Large collections can have thousands in them from bars all over the world. After all, people will collect everything that interests them.