I have been on an ephemera kick lately. I guess that happens when you are a teacher at heart and always on the lookout for teaching tools. Or maybe it is because my house is filling up with furniture and I have to start looking for smaller items to satisfy my antiquing addiction.
Truthfully, I have always loved ephemera. I collected bags as a youngster. I still have my old scrapbooks from when I was young, filled with cards and tickets, notes and paper pieces of the past. Today I found a ticket to a 2014 Billy Joel concert in my wallet (where else would it be after three years?!). I have an entire room of boxes filled with ephemera waiting to be sorted or scrapbooked eventually.
I remember the first time I heard that trash tells the true story of a culture. It was kind of a “woah!” moment for me. I was young and spent the next few months wondering what story my trash told.
Most of our trash is filled with what I would call ephemera.
A few years ago I got a copy of the History Lab curriculum from the Washington State Historical Society and they had a whole section devoted to ephemera. It made my heart happy. There is so much to learn from all of our paper pieces of the past, the campaign buttons, the school ribbons and honor roll certificates, the notes we passed in class as students, the graded papers…
I even saw one of Elvis’ credit cards at Graceland last month…ephemera!
Chances are if you have been to a museum you have seen ephemera, sometimes as the crux of an exhibition.
My problem is figuring out what to keep, what to toss, and what is worthy of investigation in the classroom.
I figured I would share one of my favorite resources, Using Historical Ephemera in the Classroom.
There are plenty of other great resources, some of which I have highlighted in Museum Monday posts, but I like this one from Teaching History.org because it includes a lesson on historical ephemera at home, drawing students’ attention to the fact that their homes are full of mementos that are considered ephemera.
This series of lessons can also easily be the bridge to a larger discussion of classification of sources.
Happy ephemera hunting!