How About Some Ephemera?

by Apr 25, 2009Ad Libitum0 comments

ephemeraI just love vintage, old things, the kind of things you find in abandoned old trunks, stored away and forgotten in a musty, old, attic.  It inspired the name of my webstore, White Oak Attic.

The collecting of and finding uses for ephemera can make a good hobby.  Finally a use for all the old paper stumbled upon at estate sales and antique stores. Plus, it can be very pretty and incorporated into a number of other hobby projects apart from the collecting of it.

So what is ephemera?  Wiki says “Ephemera is 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.”  I also found a blog post that expounds on the topic in much deeper detail than I really needed to know at The Ephemera Society of America.

To me (and apparently to some others since googling the term “what is ephemera” yielded a similar answer from someone else) ephemera is a name to give all these old papers and collectible what-nots we just like and for which we need a good title so we have a way to say that we like these 🙂  “I like these old papers and stuff that I found” doesn’t sound nearly as witty and charming as “I love to collect and create things with Ephemera”.

A friend of mine on Facebook shared a link to an article about the discovery of the earliest known book jacket among some ephemera.  It is an interesting little read if you, too, like history and old things.  Personally it never occurred to me there was a first time someone used a book jacket.  Obvious on the face of it but one of those things you don’t think about.

Those of us that enjoy this kind of thing probably also like antiques, things that just look antique and are drawn to historic places and things.  Probably a propensity for genealogy too. To me, that’s what seems to be the most obvious fit for ephemera.  Using it to enhance and enrich the research of your family history.

Ephemera and the hobby of genealogy research seem to fit together very nicely.  If you were to create a scrapbook housing some of the more interesting and noteworthy treasures in your family tree, finding papers written and dated around the time frame of your topic of display would certainly be creative to use there wouldn’t it?  Adding a lot more interest, drawing a few oooohs and ahhhhs from at least some who see it.

This is a great little hobby for the creative person.  Lots of things you could make using ephemera, collages, scrapbooks, embellish any number of other items with it (like picture frames for instance) and you can scan it and use the images in creative ways (like a website background :-)).  Handwritten letters and old family photos would be free of any copyright concerns if they are very old.  What a trove of original works of art we can make with these.

I just hate to see old family photos discarded and my natural inclination is to want to protect them, even if the photos have no ties to me or my family.  There is something sad about seeing a family history discarded.  But what can I do with them, it isn’t practical to keep them all.  Especially when they have no connection to your family.  Making a creative hobby out of their use can solve this problem.

I rescued a box of papers from an estate sale about two years ago.  Found a number of documents from WWII carefully saved by the father of the woman who had passed.  Apparently she had brought her father’s belongings to her home and stored them just as he left them.  The old file box I found them in looked as though it had not been touched in many years.  I sorted and scanned piles of documents and found there is a market for them among people who enjoy them.  One person in particular bought most of them, he wanted them purely because the man they belonged to was a Navy Pilot and his hobby was centered around tracing the lives of a number of WWII pilots.  Anyway, they were rescued from a near fate of the trash can (I found them shoved in the corner in a pile of other paper and trash at the very end of a sale).  It wasn’t a profitable exercise, hours of sorting and scanning, but I enjoyed it.  For me that was partly hobby, appealing to my practical nature and gave someone else a little pleasure too.  You can’t find this stuff at Wal-Mart.

More of these types of things will be offered in my store, in the category of Estate Sale Treasures beginning in June.  A way to get them into the hands of those who will enjoy them rather than having them discarded.  There are a lot of us out here who enjoy these little finds so I hope new homes are in store for a lot of old papers, old photos and other vintage odds & ends.


Latin phrase meaning “as it pleases”.  Our blog covers an array of topics.



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