Ephemera. We use that word a lot here on this site, generally under our daily poetry posts. There are several ways to phrase the meaning of the word, depending on which dictionary you ask, but a few general themes keep coming up. It’s a word used to describe things or writings that are temporary, fleeting, transitory. Things only intended to be used for a short time or not to have lasting value. It’s generally used to refer to paper collectible items, such as ticket stubs, programs, postcards etc. Collins dictionary categorizes it as an “uncountable noun”
Reading the dictionary entries, there are implications that these ephemera, collectively, can be used to give us insight into a time that no longer exists. Though something intended to be fairly limited in scope, a collection of concert flyers can tell us many things: the tastes of the times concerning entertainment, what font and design styles were in fashion, etc. And since all times are times that no longer exist, one can look at something like a band setlist, snatched from the stage by an eager fan, as something of a miracle, pulled from the ether, like Nancy pulling Freddy Kreuger’s hat from the dream. It’s proof, it’s evidence.
It should come as no surprise, then, that they can take on another life as collectables. If these discarded items as a whole can imply facts or relay certain atmospheric data to researchers, they can certainly transfer information to a deliberate eye motivated by nostalgia. Someone can hold a ticket stub in their hand as a method of focusing their powers of recall. They may keep it displayed because it reminds them of a certain person, or period of their life. We’re no strangers to this. We could make a post a day for the rest of our lives and not completely display all the ephemera we’ve collected over the years.
We feel like there’s also a warning here: items that were not intended to be reused or permanent nevertheless becoming valuable as memories or sources of knowledge might be something worth trying to look out for. Looking at old show flyers, it’s easy to think of all the other flyers out there, representing shows long forgotten.
We started thinking about, what video ephemera would look like. On one hand it could be a video of room full of dancers, either not knowing or not remembering they were on film, who were never supposed to be on film in the first place, but were captured by someone in a revel, trying to create a Freddy’s hat to bring back with her. Or it could be something filmed for no reason at all, something more accidental. Perhaps something one films that only becomes representative of a time or place after the fact. We found a lot of examples of these in our archives, and present some here for your viewing pleasure.