The GOP Convention Is Done, But The Swag Lives On

Along with campaigns and conventions come a mountain of political stuff: T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons and everything in between. Much of it will remain just stuff, but some will be gathered by National Museum of American History curators Larry Bird and Harry Rubenstein, and become part of the Smithsonian collection. We hear what makes the cut and what they found at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida this week.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Finally, a story of a couple of guys on a road trip to find a few things that may be priceless. Remember, it's a road trip. Our two stars are...

LARRY BIRD: I'm Larry Bird.

HARRY RUBENSTEIN: Hi, this is Harry Rubenstein.

SIMON: Larry Bird and Harry Rubenstein are curators at the National Museum of American History. They've been in Tampa this week and will be in Charlotte next to collect stuff.

BIRD: I mean, it could be anything - banner, badges, buttons, ribbons.

SIMON: Convention stuff that may one day be the stuff of history.

RUBENSTEIN: We're trying to build out the collection that we have back in the museum that goes back to George Washington, and maybe even a little before.

SIMON: Political conventions are awash with stuff, twinkling pins, American flag ties, cowboy, baseball and stovepipe hats, but Harry Rubenstein says they do have standards.

RUBENSTEIN: An example of something that didn't make the cut but was wonderful to see were the delegates from Kansas. A number of them dressed up as characters from the "Wizard of Oz" for the first night. We didn't ask them for their costumes.

SIMON: After all, the museum already has Dorothy's ruby slippers, but Larry Bird says they do find nuggets of collectors' gold.

BIRD: We saw a wonderful ribbon from the Washington State delegation. It was a complete throwback to the 19th century. This elaborate assemblage that had this little seal of Washington in it and it was just amazing, so that made the cut.

SIMON: They look for items that represent each convention session or spotlight the passion of supporters, memorable speeches. The most memorable item from this year's Republican convention may be a chair used by Clint Eastwood as a theatrical prop for President Obama. Larry Bird says...

BIRD: Yeah, you know, you really wonder where that chair is now.

SIMON: Curators hit the road today to drive to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they'll resume their search for Smithsonian quality kitsch.

(SOUNDBITE OF "ON THE ROAD AGAIN")

SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News.

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