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Collections Highlight: Wrapping Paper

Categories: Articles, Collections

By Laura Hicken, Assistant Registrar

Tis’ the season to highlight a couple of festive and unexpected artifacts in the National Building Museum’s permanent collection- wrapping paper! While both of our wrapping paper artifacts are in the Washington National Cathedral Construction Archives Collection, they could not be more different.

This gargoyle wrapping paper was designed by illustrator Babs Gaillard and was sold in the Herb Cottage Gift Shop in the early 1980s. Six different gargoyles are represented on the paper, all of which are indeed gargoyles you can see on the Cathedral (with the right pair of binoculars). Represented on the wrapping paper are: a depiction of Pan holding a flute; a happy face monster; a sage owl wearing a graduation cap and holding a diploma; a horned fish; a frog; and a master carver gargoyle.

The master carver, distinguished by his carving tools in his hands and angry steam erupting from his hat, was created in honor of actual National Cathedral master stone carver Roger Morigi. Most of us won’t be receiving a gargoyle immortalizing our achievements any time soon, but for a brief moment you could at least receive a gift wrapped in grotesques.

This next piece of wrapping paper is much more traditional. Gold and candy cane colored stripes are punctuated by large red poinsettias giving a lovely vintage feel. But this paper contains a surprise: sketched on the back is a depiction of Christ extending his hand to a group of animals.

This undated/unsigned sketch is attributed to celebrated 20th century sculptor Heinz Warneke, and is a fun example of an artist using whatever is nearby to capture an idea. It’s also a good reminder to re-purpose or recycle all of that opened wrapping paper.