The Ferris collection of more than 8000 items is unique in the Western world and there can be no question that its presence at USC has an immediate, global significance. Tom and Jeri Ferris set out to try and unravel the mystery of a nation and regime that dominated the political and social evolution of the 20th century and their extraordinary collection reflects this noble aspiration. This collection also constitutes a precious and unprecedented research tool: this vast assemblage of books, journals, documents, photographs, recordings, banners, and material items of high and low culture provides rich and diverse data essential to a multifaceted and objective appreciation of what used to be the USSR. Beginning in 1970 Jeri Ferris and her late husband, Tom Ferris , made over thirty trips to the USSR, acquiring items which, they felt, expressed the spirit and achievement of Soviet culture whether that be a coffee-table album celebrating Stalin, a survey of the Moscow metro, a cigarette-case, an abacus, a school uniform, a portrait of a Party leader, a porcelain figurine or plate carrying Stalin or Kirov, a KGB ID, a panorama of the Soviet army, a vintage photograph of Lenin, a partisan's how-to manual, a dissident painting, a caricature of Brezhnev, a money-box in the form of Gorbachev, etc.
The material artifacts of Soviet culture: fine arts, decorative arts, graphic design, and ephemera are repositories of many stories, documenting the motivations, opinions, intentions, and ideas of the people who lived under communism and watched the life cycle of an ideology from its birth in revolution to its unexpected end under Gorbachev. The Ferris collection of Sovietica incorporates the elements of daily life, as well as the iconic symbols of communism, examined as a whole, it provides invaluable insights that cannot be found in written documentation; the strength of the material is reflected in its multidisciplinary approach to looking at objects as both agents and expressions of change. No component of Soviet life is left unexamined: it is a vast assemblage of objects that include journals, paintings, books, prints, industrial and decorative art objects, toys, and ephemera. With the accession of this collection, the IMRC hopes to engender an appreciation of ordinary objects and enhance the understanding of how objects and mass-produced images have been used to effect social, political, and technological change in Russia. We hope that as a result of exposure to this unique material, our students will become better critical thinkers and have a more clear understanding of the Soviet culture as a whole. It is important to understand that this collection is unique and represents both the vision of its collectors and Soviet culture in a way that cannot be replicated or reproduced. At this time the collection has yet to be fully documented and the true value of the collection has yet to be fully ascertained. With its emphasis on both high Stalin culture and on everyday life, the collection is unmatched in its variety, scope, and rarity. Beyond that, perhaps one of the most dramatic dimensions of the collection is that, on the one hand, it illuminates the history of America's - and Capitalism's -- strongest rival and also demonstrates how pervasive and omnipresent its ideological propaganda was; in no small degree, the collection tells us of the invasiveness of political dictatorship and the fragility of democracy.
3) Three-dimensional objects. Among the highpoints of the Ferris collection are the many objects in porcelain, textiles, metal, and wood. These include busts of Lenin, Stalin, Kirov and other political leaders, propaganda plates and figurines, highly ornate flags and banners used for May Day and other demonstrations, and children's toys. The countless minutiae include coins, medals, medallions, badges, clips, matreshki, many dating from 1930-60.