It’s been 76 years since the world first met Archie Andrews and friends in the pages of Pep Comics, but some are still not familiar with Riverdale High School’s most famous students.
Fortunately for the uninitiated, Archie and the gang are spending the month of May in Montauk—in more ways than one.
The Montauk Library is currently hosting a traveling Archie Comics memorabilia collection in the basement of its facility. Among the items on display are Archie comic books, action figures, watches, vinyl records and other collectibles.
The exhibition was put together by East Hampton resident Nancy Silberkleit, the co-CEO of Archie Comic Publications, who has been taking the collection all around the country. Before she met her husband, co-CEO Michael Silberkleit, who died in 2008, Ms. Silberkleit was an art teacher in the New Jersey school system who hadn’t read a page of Archie’s adventures.
“That was the most remarkable challenging step for me, that not only did I not have any formal business experience, I had not been connected to the brand,” Ms. Silberkleit said while sitting in front of one of the displays on Thursday, May 11. “When I was coming into Archie very green, I was bringing home all of those comic books and, suddenly, I was piling up the ones that made me laugh, I was piling up the ones that had very important messages, I was piling up ones that had those words that you’d find on an SAT test. They were amazing—and then I was rereading them!”
After struggling with reading skills when she was a young girl, she credits Archie Comics’ humor and memorable life lessons for inspiring a love of reading in her. She went on to say that the more she dove into Archie’s history, the more she found a love of collecting pieces of the brand, and the passion that other people have when they become collectors of memorabilia.
“The time that goes into being a collector is very deep, it’s endless, it’s satisfying, it puts you on paths that encourage communication. I see the hobby of being interested in the art of being a collector is huge to spark one’s self-esteem,” she said. “It gives them something that they will be knowledgeable on, and when you’re knowledgeable, people float to you to get information. It’s very important for young people to have an interest.”
The exhibition itself came about from a run-in Ms. Silberkleit had with a fifth grade girl named Jacobi in Larchmont three years ago. Young Jacobi had been assigned by her teacher to do an archive assignment; she asked to interview Ms. Silberkleit.
When Ms. Silberkleit talked with Jacobi and told her about the vast supply of Archie memorabilia in her collection, Jacobi offered to organize the materials and research information about each item. As a token of her gratitude for all of Jacobi’s work, Ms. Silberkleit displayed Jacobi’s organized collection at the Mamaroneck Public Library. When she saw the popularity of the exhibition and the feedback from the people who attended, she tried taking it to other libraries throughout the country.
She’s since taken the trinkets of Archie everywhere from Utah to Florida, and she has scheduled the collection to appear in other locations throughout 2018.
“It speaks volumes when your brand is recognized globally,” she said. “It seems to be timeless, ageless, genderless—everybody’s talking about Archie. It’s the people, their conversations that talk about Archie that spread it around the world and it keeps going. Archie is on top of the globe, and it keeps spinning.”
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