Printed Ephemera — Original American Indymedia

We see them all the time: posters, flyers, pamphlets, catalogs. But how much notice do we take? Often, they only require a few moments attention, and yet so much about a time and place is communicated. And unlike our tradition conception of the mass media and press, the production of these forms of printed communication has been quite accessible to a broad range of people.

The Library of Congress has over 10,000 items from its Printed Ephemera collection on-line at An American Time Capsule; Three Centuries of Broadsides and Printed Ephemera. It’s a fun and fascinating browse through what people were have been interested in over the past three centuries.

I’m always interested in printed ephemera wherever I go. When I’m in a new city or town, I find the presence of flyers, posters and paphlets to be an indicator of a rich community, full of art and life. I’m especially excited when most of the stuff is clearly hand-made or xeroxed, rather than the work of record company marketers, like you find in New York or San Francisco. When I see a pile of fliers at a local record store or coffee shop I know that people are busy making their own culture, making their own fun, and trying to communicate that without having to suck the dick of local “legitimate” media.

These items tell a story that’s easily lost and forgotten. Today’s deteriorating trash stapled to a lamp post may be tomorrow’s memorabilia of a great punk show put on by a beloved band.

Despite the fact, or because of the fact that they weren’t put out by established publishers or the legitimate press, these items have value and interest. Because they don’t necessarily fit easily into categories or shelves, some libraries collect ephemera in their vertical file.

But collecting is something anyone can do. Indeed, that old flyer may be the only physical proof that some band, event or group once existed.






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