Ephemera: “The Minor Transient Documents of Everyday Life” An IntroductionThis exhibit considers some of the items in our collections that may not have originally been created to be kept. Organized by broad category of ephemera type, we offer viewers the opportunity to ponder the concept of permanence, as well as what one can find in an archive, how it gets there, and how it might be used long after its original use has ended. We have also highlighted a few select items with regard to provenance (who the item once belonged to), significance (why it might be considered important), and resonance (what the item means or meant to a particular individual). The exhibit focuses primarily on print ephemera from our collections, primarily from the 19th & 20th centuries, kept intentionally or incidentally, though some items reach further back in time, and some reach into the 21st. century. What is Ephemera? The word ephemera comes from the Greek EPI (on, about, around) and HEMERA (day) and refers literally to something that lasts through the day. Ephemerist, historian, and author of the Encyclopedia of Ephemera (Routledge, 2000) Maurice Rickards proposed the definition, “the minor transient documents of everyday life,” and that is the title of this exhibit. Although not every item of ephemera can be regarded as transient or minor, the study of ephemera is considered an academic discipline, bringing together people who hold in common a passionate interest in the history and the materiality of these items. The seed of Rickards’ work, and the work of those before him led to the formation of the Ephemera Society in London in 1975. The interest and scholarship around ephemera has become a worldwide movement of collectors, archivists, curators, bibliographers, typographers, and scholars -- not to mention those who love flea markets, yard sales, and uncovering fascinating, beautiful, or evocative “scraps of history” that help to shine a light on the past. This exhibit is by no means a complete, or comprensive look at the vast amount of ephemera in our collections. Showcased here is small cross-section of ephemera across a broad range of collections in RBSCP and Robbins. In addition to interesting things to look at and read about, we hope that it serves as a prompt to the exhibit goer to think about those “minor transient documents of everyday life” in their own lives. What do they represent? Why do we hold on to them? What do they tell us? How did they survive? – was it an accident, or was it intentionally archived, and by whom? And why? We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the world of Ephemera and the stories, ideas, and questions the items included in the exhibit invoke.
Jessica Lacher-Feldman Exhibits and Special Projects Manager, RBSCP