Helena man displays Christmas ephemera collection at pop-up exhibition

Nolan Lister

As a high school junior in Malta, Mike Smith was fascinated by dinosaur fossils.

The archaeopteryx, a part bird and part dinosaur from the late Jurassic period, is a specimen that has captured the attention of many an amateur paleontologist, including Smith, since first excavated in the middle of the 19th century.

A discovery of at least one of these fossilized birds occurred in a stone quarry in Germany. Smith said he learned the stone being quarried was used for a purpose unfamiliar to him at the time, chromolithography.

A little more research uncovered that the German lithography company was printing Christmas cards, so Smith bought a set of the late 19th century cards in an auction, kicking off a passion that has lasted 40 years.

The Montana Historical Society hosted Smith and his extensive collection of Christmas treasures as part of a one-day pop-up exhibition on Dec. 10, its last until the museum’s remodel is completed in 2025.

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The lobby was filled to the brim with cards, ornaments, illustrations and music boxes.

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