Landscape organizes everything within sight.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ephemera is Sexy

Rumors from my documentarian friends about the madman documentarian who runs ATA (Artist's Television Access) down the street, the hub of the ephemeral film movement -- he, Prelinger (the archivist), and others started collecting garage fulls of ephemeral film, stitching them together into new films, yes, and mostly emphasizing the mythic tale of 1960s consciousness raising out of the homogenous world of Wonderbread in the 1950s. And the creatures who direct are really quite canny. But still, the fact remains that there are garagefulls of ephemeral film in San Francisco.

Man. That is a sexy concept to a historian. Historians generally base their first go at what was going on in particular decade (say, the 1960s) on what the journalists who were there said. But journalists don't always get it right. Or cover everyone who's doing something interesting. And if journalists covered Civil Rights, they didn't tell much about how conversations about sex, race, self, and responsibility were happening in peoples' living rooms and back yards. And nobody talks about what it was like to walk down a street (or a beach) in the 1940s. So we historians get perfectly psyched at the phrase "garagefull of ephemeral film." My skin is already crawling!

As a nineteenth-century historian ("a nineteenth century-ist"),I'm stuck picking at traditional social history, blogging about Google Books, which really is fascinating for what it can do with the ephemera of the nineteenth century. Since no one else in the discipline has caught on to the obvious, I might try to make myself famous doing it.

When I find collections of twentieth century ephemera online, they up here. Here's a sample:

  • Accidental Mysteries: extraordinary vernacular photographs

  • Cabinet Magazine Online - Leftovers/ Ca Redemption Value: Craig Baldwin's Found-Footage Films

    "It generates a critique by using the material left behind by the enemy. Like jujitsu, using the weight of the enemy against himself… I don't want to just reiterate some sort of consensus. I want to strike a blow against consensus."

  • An Object Lesson in Colonial Pedagogy, Parna Sengupta

    brief history of the object lesson in c19 pedagogy, excellent footnotes on the history of object study and fetishism

  • Vintage NYC Postcard Gallery - Irving Underhill

    New York City, 1900-1910, in glamor shots of skyscrapers and insect-like crowds below

  • Fruit From Washington - Fruit Harvest and Patriotic Posters from Depression Era and War Years

    history of nutrition and home farming from the view of national propaganda

  • Fort Smith National Historic Site - City of Fort Smith Postcards (U.S. National Park Service)

    Fort Smith, Arkansas - vernacular architecture in postcards...

  • Prison Postcards

    from Kent state - some online

  • The Beginnings - ephemera from San Francisco in 1965

    sf mime troop, acid test, ming the merciless, and other ephemera.

  • - Oz magazine It Magazine Sixties Hippy Counter Culture

  • American Memory Collection Finder Search

    early ephemeral films - westinghouse, cocacola advertising, animation....

  • Playa de Marianao, c 1940? postcard

    Havana (Prov.): Beaches: Playa de Marianao
    5 Habana. Playa de Marianao. Marianao Beach
    1 postcard
    Note: Verso: No. 64. Edición Jordi

  • Habana. Calle Obispo (Pi Margall). Obispo or Pi Margal Street

    street scene in old havana. c 1940?

  • The Cuban Postcard Collection

    The Cuban Postcard Collection is a continuously growing collection of postcards of Cuba and the Cuban experience outside of Cuba produced from the turn of the 20th century to the present. It includes real photo, printed photo, and artist drawn postcards a

  • History of Media Librarianship: A Chronology

    the first map libraries, the first postcard libraries

  • The Museum of Unworkable Devices


    Anonymous Scott Paeth said...

    Shouldn't it be "Ephemera ARE sexy"? Isn't the word "ephemera" plural? But then what would the singular be? "Ephemerum"? "Ephemerus"?


    Glad you're back to blogging Jo!

    8:48 AM  
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