The bounty, acquired over a number of years by Edward and Saryl Von der Porten, includes printed material, buttons, novelties, games, toys and other war-themed commemorative, propaganda and household items.
A small group of items was on display Friday in glass cases at the national park visitors center. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Diane Hedler, president of the nonprofit Rosie the Riveter Trust, which is facilitating the acquisition of the collection and donating it to the National Park Service.
"We are very pleased to be donating this to the National Park Service," she said. "We think it is very important to have it available to tell the story of what was happening on the World War II home front."
The bounty of model kits, toy tanks, colorful posters, publications, ephemera and other items that people took for granted and often didn't keep once the war ended will be a great help in illustrating home front life to succeeding generations.
"These are what people used," said park Superintendent Tom Leatherman. "These give us something tangible to share.
"Part of our mission is to preserve history but also to share it."
Leatherman said the park plans to have rotating and themed exhibits at the park visitors center, as well as at historic sites such as the restored Maritime Child Development Center and the neighboring Nystrom School, both built to serve war worker families.
"This is an opportunity not only to have them here but also other places around the city," he said.
The park also plans to eventually make the treasure trove available as part of its digital collection at museum.nps.gov.
Edward Von der Porten, a San Francisco resident and retired teacher, said he began acquiring items to share with history students at Santa Rosa High School.
The couple sold much of that original collection when he retired from teaching but continued to acquire new additions during their travels.
Van der Porten went on for seven years to manage the Treasure Island Museum, dedicated to the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, all the while continuing to add to the collection. What he thought was about 1,000 items turned out to be more than twice that size.
"I used to run a museum, so I was very conscious of the management and importance of these types of collections," he said. "We tried to have the widest range of pieces (because) we were interested in the whole range of activities."
Bringing the collection to Richmond was a natural outcome that Van der Porten foresaw, even before someone told him about the national park dedicated to the home front.
"I knew that someday somebody would need this collection; I just didn't know who," he said.
Park officials hope others will be inspired to help its mission of preserving history by donating items from the era or offering remembrances for its oral history collection.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust (www.rosietheriveter.org), meanwhile, is still raising funds toward the acquisition and preservation of the Van der Porten collection.
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