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Continued: Kitschy birch plaques earn an exhibit at the American Swedish Institute

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 24, 2013 - 3:21 PM

Heck, postcards still exist, although their use on birchwood plaques rarely does. Chalk up part of that decline to urbanization. “The ’70s showed up and suddenly packing up the kids in the auto isn’t as cool as the neighbor who takes their family on an airplane to the Caribbean,” Pollock said.

Tastes also changed, “like my mother’s spoon collection,” he added. “At some point you say,” and his voiced dropped to a whisper, “ ‘Let’s put this away now.’ ”

Suddenly, they’re retro

Today, birchwood plaques have an air of retro chic. They’re kitschy and charming and even historical.

Are they art? Pollock welcomes the debate, even using a quote from Pablo Picasso to introduce the exhibit: “Good taste is a horrible thing. Taste is the enemy of creativity.”

Writing in the exhibition catalog for the exhibit’s U.S. debut in Seattle, Borghild Håkansson said she began collecting the plaques because each is unique and handmade. Best of all, they are tangible keepsakes of an encounter at a time when we experience more and more through the distance of a screen, whether on a computer, TV or phone.

“A graspable world is one in which we can engage,” she wrote. “Perhaps we can say that the birch board picture stands as a symbol of the graspable, the ability to be made happy by that familiar and yet still unknown place which one can long for and wonder about.”

Which pretty much describes a vacation souvenir: a memory you can hold in your hand.


Kim Ode • 612-673-7185


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  • Photo gallery: Wish you were here

    Wednesday April 24, 2013

    A display of kitschy birchwood plague souvenirs at the american Swedish Institute asks " What is art?" and probes...

  • When Swedes began taking vacations, they brought home souvenirs of postcards pasted to slices of birchwood and embellished with paint. Now more than 1,000 of these oval plaques are displayed at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, which poses the question: What is art?.

  • If you go

    What: #Name This Exhibit: 1,200 Birchwood Plaques.

    Where: American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S., Mpls.

    When: Through June 2.

    Admission: $7 for adults; $6 ages 62 and older; $4 ages 6-18 and full-time students with ID; free for ages 5 and under.

    More information: 612-871-4907 or visit

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