Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Australasian Ephemera - Part 2: Australia. Guest post by Anthony Tedeschi

Very many thanks to Anthony Tedeschi for his second post about Australasian ephemera and to Richard Overell of Monash University for supplying images from their collections. Anthony's own blog: Antipodean Footnotes gives fascinating insights into rare books and special collections in New Zealand and Australia.

Australasian Ephemera Collections – Part 2: Australia

Following on from my guest post in October on New Zealand ephemera collections, the second of this two-part post highlights some of the ephemera collections held by Australian institutions. Like the New Zealand post it is hoped additions will be made by way of comments.

For details on the various subject categories collected, it is suggested interested readers consult each institution’s on-line catalogue (subject search ‘ephemera’). A Directory of Australian Ephemera Collections was published by the State Library of New South Wales in 1992. An Index, compiled by the State Library of Victoria, was published the following year.

(C) Monash University: special collections

The AIATSIS began collecting ephemera in the 1970s. Starting out with a focus on print material, the collection has grown to include non-paper items, such as badges, t-shirts, and tea towels. The largest sequence in the collection is comprised of invitations to openings of Indigenous art exhibitions from across Australia.

A PDF summary of the collection and index to the ephemera categories is available (see link above).

The AWM finding aids page includes links to multiple guides from aerial photographs and card, certificates and leaflets, to private records and film and sound. Though many of the guides pertain to ephemeral material, such as the Guide to the Cigarette & Trade Card Collection, under the specifically named ‘Ephemera (includes cards, certificates, leaflets, postcards and souvenirs)’ heading are listed: British Commonwealth Occupation Force Souvenirs Collection, Souvenirs 15, the Korean Collection, the Vietnam Collection, the Gulf War Collection, the East Timor Collection, the Iraq 2003 Collection, and the Afghanistan Collection.

Monash University Library 

(C) Monash University: special collections

Monash University special collections have been acquiring ephemera since the 1990s. Material in the collection dates from late seventeenth-century English pamphlets and broadsides to current menus, games, souvenirs, posters, flyers, cards, and junk mail. In 2011, the library hosted an exhibition called Ephemera, with a catalogue (PDF) and on-line version providing an overview of its rich holdings.

The Monash collection featured on the John Johnson Collection’s Ephemera Resources blog on 6 February 2012.

(C) Monash University: special collections

Australia’s national library has been collecting ephemera relevant to the nation since the 1960s. The Australian ephemera is indexed and divided into seven themes by subject: Australian performing arts programmes and ephemera (PROMPT), formed collections, general ephemera, geography and travel, programmes and invitations, scrapbooks, and trade catalogues. While the NLA collects widely, it aims to acquire as much Federal election campaign material and material relating to national events as possible. In 2007, the NLA received the oldest example of Australian printing – the 1796 ‘Jane Shore playbill’ – as a gift from the Canadian government.

The NLA maintains a General Ephemera Collection Thesaurus (PDF). Readers might also be interested in the Library’s database Trove, which includes a number of ephemera related resources and collections listed among its contents from across Australia, some of which, such as the Federation Ephemera at the State Library of New South Wales project, are freely available on-line.

Visitors can browse the ephemera collection and read the Library’s ephemera collection development policy. The Library’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ blog has also recently added two posts on ‘canvassing election ephemera in the Pacific’ (Part 1 and Part 2).

Between the Mitchell and State Reference libraries, the SLNSW holds a diverse collection of ephemera, which includes some of the earliest examples in Australia. Among the individual pieces highlighted on the Library’s website are: a 1612 Dutch translation of the de Quiros pamphlet, which contains the earliest printed reference to the word ‘Australia’, a broadside ca. 1789 describing a wild man or monstrous plant brought from Botany Bay, a playbill dated 8 March 1800, propaganda leaflets dropped by a Turkish aeroplane at Gallipoli during World War I, and an album of invitations, menus and other ephemeral printing related to the Inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

Among the subjects highlighted on-line are collections related to Qantas airline, which includes material from the 1920s to the present day, and on horse racing.

The John Oxley Library of the State Library of Queensland notes calendars, elections, exhibitions and festivals, invitations, menus, royalty and royal visits, sport, and trade programmes among the categories of material which it collections. The strongest sequence in the collection is the Library’s theatre programmes, which date from 1866 to the present day.

The John Oxley Library blog uploaded two helpful posts (available on the same page) describing its theatre ephemera and how to search the ephemera collection in the Library catalogue.

Material in the State Library of South Australia’s ephemera collection dates from 1836 onwards, and includes material similar in nature to many other institutions, from badges and business cards, to greeting cards and sheet music. The library, however, also holds a unique collection of wine labels. Collected since 1972, there are approximately 10,000 labels in the collection, reflecting the state’s connection to the Australian wine industry. A description of the collection can be found on the ephemera guide page (see link above), and two hundred and fifty labels have been digitised and are available through the Library’s Wine Literature of the World website.

Centred on ‘Victoria and Victorians’, but including material from across the country as well, the State Library of Victoria holds one of the largest ephemera collections in Australia. Material dates from the 1850s onwards. In addition to the types of ephemeral material held by other institutions, the SLVA is busy building a collection of local zines to document Melbourne’s thriving art and music scenes.

Three of the library’s major ephemera collections – advertising, political ephemera, and theatre programmes – have individual descriptions. Some examples from the Library’s ephemera collection have been digitised, such as the fan-shaped programme for the play School for Scandal (Melbourne, 1869) and the 1935 Myer Mail Order Shoppers’ Guide for Autumn & Winter. There is also a research guide to the Library’s Political Ephemera Poster Collection. A number of the posters have also been digitised and are available on-line.

The SLWA ephemera collection numbers over 100,000 items. The library maintains a selection of highlights from its ephemera collection on topics such as ships and shipwrecks in Western Australia, royal visits, firms and businesses, the Festival of Perth, and a collection of tombstone inscriptions gathered from Western Australian cemeteries. There is also a page dedicated to finding Indigenous ephemera.

University of Queensland
While I could not find a general summary of its ephemera collection, the University of Queensland Fryer Library has highlighted some aspects of the collection, such as political ephemera and material marking Queensland statehood, as part of its Treasure of the Month on-line exhibition series.

Part of the Sir George Grey Special Collections, the ACL Ephemera Collection includes material from the 1840s onwards divided into three distinct collections: the Old Colonists’ Museum Collection (material on Auckland’s colonial period given to the library when the OCM closed in the 1950s), the Freida Dickens Programme Collection (music, dance and theatre programmes, 1911-1976), and the New Zealand Ephemera Collection, which is divided into two sequences based on type and subject matter respectively (material includes menus, tickets, advertising flyers, cards and calendars).

The library maintains a searchable ephemera index database.


Wishing everyone Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year from the Antipodes!

[Guest post by Anthony Tedeschi, Rare Books Librarian, Dunedin City Library]


  1. The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (http://alga.org.au) maintains a distinct ephemera collection of approximately 2500 files, with approximately 30,000 items. A basic listing of ephemera file titles is available on the Archives’ website (http://alga.org.au/the-collection#ephemera). The collection is Australian-focused and organised largely by publisher/organisation, with a number of event, person and subject files. Material found in the ephemera files ranges across a number of ephemera types, including flyers, postcards, circular letters, administrative documents etc.
    A number of separate collections, as well as sub and formed collections of items that may also be considered ephemera, including posters, theatre programs, venue/nightclub flyers, calendars, badges, placards, matchbooks etc. In addition, some items such as festival programs and zines, often considered to be ephemera, are often integrated into the Periodicals or Book Collections.

    Due to the collecting focus of the Archives, a number of the subject areas featured strongly in the Ephemera Collection are unlikely to be collected extensively by institutional collections, in particular material relating to safe-sex educational material, sex on premises venues, sex workers, trans* and intersex issues.

    Ephemera from the Archives’ collection is regularly incorporated in exhibitions developed by the Archives and external organisations, including recent exhibitions such as: Sydney Mardi Gras Museum (2013) (http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/local-news/new-south-wales-news/mardi-gras-museum-opens-in-sydney/94354, Protest! (2013) (http://www.lib.unimelb.edu.au/collections/archives/exhibitions/protest/), Got the message? 50 years of political posters (2013) (http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2013/03/06/3709263.htm), and Radicalism (2014) (http://www.midsumma.org.au/program/premier-events/radicalism).

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