I have a fairly large collection of both whiskey bottles and other items related to whiskey advertising and whiskey history. I am fortunate in that I have the third floor of our old house for my office and whiskey storage. I have bottles, books, magazines, assorted files, bar and tip trays, advertising posters and signs and assorted barrel heads and other paraphernalia that I have collected over the last thirty years. I try to put as much of it on display as possible. I thought my readers would be interested in how to display their similar items and offer some hints as to how to preserve these items on display.

I try to frame any paper promotional and advertising pieces and hang them on the wall. This does not need to cost a fortune and picture frames of standard sizes can be purchased fairly cheaply. However, when framing an advertisement or poster, make sure that if the frame comes with a cardboard backing, place some acid free paper between the cardboard and the advertisement. Cardboard is very acidic and will eventually leech into the advertisement and start to discolor and damage the images. When you hang these items, do not hang them where direct sunlight shines on the item. Sunlight will cause fading and speed the acid reaction of any cardboard backing. I use the stairwell up to my office as a gallery for magazine advertisements.

Bar and tip trays can be hung using plate hangers to hang them on the wall. There are several types of plate hangers in assorted sizes, so it is easy to find one to suit the needs for hanging for display. They are more resistant to sun damage, but it is best not to hang them where they are in direct sunlight. Barrel heads present a different problem. They are heavy so be sure to use a hanger rated for their weight or else you may find them falling off the wall. 

Wood is very acidic so don’t use a barrel head to “frame” an advertisement or other paper item without taking precautions. A coat of wood lacquer or some other coating should be between the wood and the paper.

Bookshelves and file cabinets store my collection of reading materials. I try to organize my books by subject, but I have found that every so often, I need to re-organize them as they get used and placed back in the most convenient place. 

Again, avoid placing the shelves in direct sunlight as they will fade the spines of the books. Newspaper is very acidic. It is best to save newspaper articles by photocopying the original and saving the copy. A newspaper article will start to turn brown within months as the acid starts to deteriorate the paper. It will become very fragile and fall apart in due time. You will be glad to have a photocopy on acid free paper.

Then there are all of the empty bottles that have been saved. I have many empty bottles. Many of them I have collected because of their age. I find old, embossed bottles of historical interest. Then I have bottles I have kept for sentimental reasons – the three old Bourbons I opened at my book release party or empty bottles I worked with at United Distillers, such as Rx Bourbon and the Bourbon Heritage Collection. Others I saved because the labels had changed or the bottle shape changed. 

These bottles are mostly stored on shelves, but I have seen several interesting displays of empty bottles that I would like to do in the future. The Raven’s Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had them on a glass shelf in a window, creating a stained glass effect as the sun shone through the window. This works well for bottles without paper labels. 

Finally, there are what I call “small items”. These are all of the shot glasses, coins, key chains, money clips and other promotional items collected as I visited distilleries. Right now, I have a small dresser where I display some of the items on the top and store others in the drawers. I like to change out these items every now and then so I can enjoy them all over time.

When displaying bottles with liquid still in them, be sure to use sturdy shelving. Glass and particle board shelving can make for an avoidable disaster.

I hope you found this interesting and the blog gave you some ideas as to how you can display your collection. Whether you have a basement bar or a dedicated room, it is good to display your collection so others can enjoy it with you.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller