Although you may think a ticket stub, sign, receipt or postcard is something that you use and then throw away, these materials many times have a much larger value.
These bits and pieces are called ephemera, and are vital in helping construct Arlington’s history. Ephemera, as defined by the Society of American Archivists, is “materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use.” Ephemera is collected because of its association with a person, event or subject, such a bill signed by a famous person, a ticket stub to a nationally-known event, or, as above, showing the logo and method of advertisement for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
The sign above would be shown in an office or shop window, letting customers know that the business was affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce for 1949. That means they were part of a larger business community, networking with other businesses and working together on community projects.
Because of the date, the sign was meant to be thrown away at the end of the year. However, its existence in the Arlington Community Archives shows the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at the time was robust and active (the sign is made of heavy board with rich colors), and had a plan to showcase and advertise membership. Although the sign was meant to be thrown away, it remains in our collection as a valuable piece of ephemera.
The Arlington Community Archives has an entire collection of ephemera, Record Group 28, Pamphlets and Ephemera, and continues to take donations of this material. To find out more, see also “Ephemera: A Book on its Collection, Conservation and Use,” by Chris E. Makepeace, in the Virginia Room’s book collection.
What About You?
What kinds of ephemera do you have? What stories to they tell? Let us know what you remember!