ephemera- Printed material, intended to have only fleeting interest. "Ephemera" comes from the Greek word "ephemeros" meaning "lasting a day." Examples are: tickets, leaflets, promotional literature or pamphlets, handbills, package labels, campaign buttons or badges, scrapbooks, maps, sheet music, bird's-eye views, playbills, posters, postcards (see deltiologist), especially the "business-reply" postcards that come inserted in magazines, and other junk mail.
Since these things are produced cheaply, with short-lived acidic materials, museologists and art conservators find it difficult to preserve visual art produced without high technical standards, as they do in preserving sketches made on such papers as newsprint. Museums and collectors face a dilemma: whether to allow works to decay and die, to linger in the form of documentation, or to try to embalm or replicate them. Institutions must balance the demands of managers, conservators, curators, and artists to ensure visitors the most authentic experience possible of aging works' physical and aesthetic properties.
Much ephemera is collected as memorabilia.
The Clifton Remedy Co. trade card, Girard, Illinois, c. 1885, 6.5 x 11.3 cm., 322 x 185, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD. This form of advertisement is called a trade card.
Kickapoo Indian Medicine Co., Kickapoo Indian Sagwa label, Boston, c. 1910, 19.5 x 4.3 cm.
American, American Tobacco Company, Ty Cobb Baseball Card, Detroit Tigers, 1911, chromolithograph, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Was any baseball card ever ephemera? Packaged as a giveaway with tobacco, chewing-gum, and other products, such cards have always been collectible. Nevertheless, even the rarest cards were discarded by many whose intent was merely to smoke or chew the product they'd bought, never dreaming that the giveaway card might be worth a fortune some day.
United States of America, Ex Libris Dr. J. Catasus, 1952, color lithograph, 13 x 8 cm. This type of label, intended to be adhered to an early page of a book, is also called a bookplate. Ex libris is Latin for "from the books of . . . "
American, US Postal Money Order Receipt, 1969, ink on paper, 1 x 3 inches.
Molly Springfield (American, 1977-), Matchbooks, 2001, oil on paper, 29 x 5.5 inches, collection of the artist. Many painters of trompe l'oeil have chosen ephemera as their subject matter. Molly Springfield is a contemporary practitioner. Her web site may present other such works. See philluminist.
Molly Springfield, Three Receipts, 2002, oil on board, 12 x 12 inches, collection of the artist.
American, Wal-Mart receipt for $3.00 sunglasses, plus $0.18 tax, total $3.18, cash tendered $5.25, change due $2.07, August 4, 2000, ink on cash register paper, "100% Recycled Paper," 4 x 3 inches.
Also see bookplate, collectible, Collyers' Mansion, deltiologist, exonumia, graphic design, letterhead, logo, philately, philluminist, polypropylene, scripophily, and solander box.