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Ephemera are transitory written and printed matter not intended to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. Some collectible
A collectable or collectible is any object regarded as being of value or interest to a collector . There are numerous types of collectables and terms to denote those types. An antique is a collectable that is old...

 ephemera are advertising trade cards, airsickness bags, bookmark
A bookmark is used to keep one's place in a printed work. It can also refer to:* Bookmark , a pointer in an Internet Web browser* a marker of one's place in an electronic document...

s, catalogues, greeting cards, letters, pamphlet
A pamphlet is an unbound booklet . It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths , or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddle stapled at the crease to make a simple book...

s, postcard
A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope....

s, poster
A poster is any piece of printed paper designed to be attached to a wall or vertical surface. Typically posters include both textual and graphic elements, although a poster may be either wholly graphical or wholly text. Posters are designed to be both eye-catching and informative. Posters may be...

s, prospectus
Prospectus may refer to:* Prospectus * Prospectus * Prospectus * Parkland College's newspaper...

es, stock certificate
Stock certificate
In corporate law, a stock certificate is a legal document that certifies ownership of a specific number of stock shares in a corporation...

s, ticket
Ticket (admission)
A ticket is a voucher that indicates that one has paid for admission to an event or establishment such as a theatre, movie theater, amusement park, zoo, museum, concert, or other attraction, or permission to travel on a vehicle such as an airliner, train, bus, or boat, typically because one has...

s and zine
A zine is most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest usually reproduced via photocopier....

s. Decks of personality identification playing cards
Most-wanted Iraqi playing cards
In the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition, the U.S. military developed a set of playing cards to help troops identify the most-wanted members of President Saddam Hussein's government, mostly high-ranking Baath Party members or members of the Revolutionary Command Council...

 from the war in Iraq are a recent example.


Ephemera (ἐφήμερα) is a noun, the plural neuter of ephemeron and ephemeros, Greek and New Latin for ἐπί - epi "on, for" and ἡμέρα - hemera "day" with the ancient sense extending to the mayfly
Mayflies are insects which belong to the Order Ephemeroptera . They have been placed into an ancient group of insects termed the Palaeoptera, which also contains dragonflies and damselflies...

 and other short lived insects and flowers and for something which lasts a day or a short period of time.

Printed ephemera

In library and information science
Library and information science
Library and information science is a merging of the two fields library science and information science...

, the term ephemera also describes the class of published single-sheet or single page documents which are meant to be thrown away after one use. This classification excludes simple letters and photographs with no printing on them, which are considered manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s or typescripts. Large academic and national libraries
National library
A national library is a library specifically established by the government of a country to serve as the preeminent repository of information for that country. Unlike public libraries, these rarely allow citizens to borrow books...

 and museums may collect, organize, and preserve ephemera as history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

. A particularly large and important example of such an archive is the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...

, Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

. Over 2000 images from the John Johnson Collection are available to search online for free at VADS and more than 65,000 items are available online. Three hundred plus images of historic American ephemera predating 1960 are posted at www.ephemerastudies.org. This site adds 4 additional examples weekly.

Video and audio ephemera

By extension, Video Ephemera and Audio Ephemera refer to transitory audiovisual matter not intended to be retained or preserved. Surprisingly, the great bulk of video and audio expression has, until recently, been ephemeral. Early TV broadcasts were not preserved (indeed, the technology to preserve them postdates the invention of television). Even if radio and television stations preserve archives of their broadcasts, those backcatalogs are inaccessible in practice to the general public, leaving it to a small number of underground tape traders
Tape trading
Tape trading is an unofficial method of distribution of demo tapes encompassing musical genres such as punk, hardcore, and extreme metal. The practice which was most prevalent during the 1980s and 1990s, also saw people distribute recordings of live music shows...

 to exchange the rare, lucky moments when something unexpected or historical came across the air.

An article on the Ephemera Society of America website notes
Printed ephemera gave way to audio and video ephemera in the twentieth century. ... These present even more of a preservation problem than printed materials. Although seldom made available for libraries, when videotapes are acquired for archival preservation they are found to be made on low quality tape, poorly processed, and damaged from abuse by users.

The large capacity and reach provided by resources such as the Internet Archive and YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

 have made finding and sharing video ephemera (past and present) dramatically easier.

See also

  • Found Footage Festival
  • Prelinger Archives
    Prelinger Archives
    The Prelinger Archives is a collection of films relating to U.S. cultural history, the evolution of the American landscape, everyday life and social history...

  • The Show with No Name
    The Show with No Name
    The Show With No Name was a long-running and highly popular Public-access television cable TV show in Austin, Texas, hosted by Charlie Sotelo and the mysterious "Cinco." Each show featured clips of TV, film and music ephemera along with commentary by the hosts and calls from a predictably unruly...

External links