Marshmallow Peeps Collection Is Pride Of UB Librarian

Catastrophe proves the importance of careful archival preservation

By Mara McGinnis

Release Date: April 12, 2000 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Easter is a special time for Kathleen Delaney because it is reminiscent of her first introduction to marshmallow Peeps.

Some might say she took her historical passion a bit too far, but the University at Buffalo librarian and archivist has been collecting these marshmallow Easter treats for more than 25 years and has even endured a fateful tragedy in the process.

Delaney claims that her collection of the "squishy chickies," as she calls them, started by accident.

It all began in Easter 1974, she explains, when, while studying in Ireland, a dear old friend asked an American friend to bring some Peeps over to Dublin for the Easter season.

"I was lucky enough to get a package," she says with a hint of sarcasm. "Yellow ones. With age they did turn a dusky mustard color, not unlike Grey Poupon."

Despite her hobby, the collector admits a passionate dislike for the candy creatures, which are made of what she calls "the disgusting sticky substance (marshmallow)." This is probably why her collection grew year after year ever since that fateful introduction in Ireland.

Then one day in 1995, disaster struck.

"Only those fortunate enough to carry the burden of being Irish know that tragedy is indeed the good stuff of stories," says Delaney. "It's true, my Peeps collection was tragically destroyed by an infestation of ants or worms or sugar mites. The ravages of time and trans-Atlantic voyages did nothing to them. But a warm Williamsville closet did. Nothing came close to the horror of the worm-hole riddled, squinched up, eye-pecked boxes of dead pink and yellow Peeps.

"Because I am a librarian," she adds, "you must know that I diligently cataloged the boxes. Each was archivally labeled with the date on the endcap, with a small annotation of where acquired, or if so, gifted by whom."

Still, the defenseless Peeps couldn't escape the hungry critters that caused their demise.

Delaney should have visited the "Bunny Survival Tests" Web page, which boasts the results of "exhaustively researched tolerances of marshmallow bunnies' abilities to withstand certain conditions."

This and other Web sites prove that Delaney is not alone in her obsession. On the official Peeps' page, aficionados can join the Peeps fan club or take a virtual tour of the Peeps factory at Just Born in Bethlehem, Pa. The most interesting, however, are the fun Peeps facts. For example, some strange things people like to do with Peeps are eat them stale, microwave them, freeze them, roast them and use them as pizza topping.

These days, Delaney says she is mysteriously receiving Peeps in brown-paper wrappers from sympathetic colleagues. A fellow librarian helped her in the "rebuilding" after the 1995 tragedy by contributing her first "white chicks" and then even presenting her with some Peeps snowmen last fall.

Peeps, of course, are not just for Easter anymore. They come in all shapes and sizes, including Halloween pumpkins, ghosts, and spooky cats; Christmas trees, and strawberry hearts.

"It did become necessary to bury the early editions in a plastic garbage bag," she explains, but once she noticed some squirrels dragging two beheaded Peeps through her yard, she realized they would have to actually roast the poor marshmallows.

Delaney says her current Peeps stash is labeled and resides under her bed in an archival box where she can keep a better eye on them and rest assured that they are safe from harm.

Peeps contributions to Delaney's collection are welcome, but be advised that she "prefers chicks because chicks rule." Take her seriously, as rumor in the University Archives suggests that innocent blue bunny Peeps recently were squished and thumbtacked to a bulletin board by the Peep collector herself.

Delaney and her Peeps reside in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville.