Trash or treasure; MASC opens new exhibit

A collection of one-time-use trinkets from the last century will give a glimpse into the past at the Holland/Terrell Library’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC) latest exhibit of ephemera.

Ephemera can be a range of items, from tickets to sheet music to postcards to empty Red Bull cans, said Trevor James Bond, the head of MASC.

“The issue about ephemera is there is so much, deciding what to keep and what to use was a challenge,” Bond said.

The MASC staff pulled bits of ephemera out of past exhibits, as well as used some of their own leftover trinkets to create the exhibit, “Ephemera: Yesterday’s Trash, Today’s Archive.”

“All of the items surrounding the banners are from my own collection,” said Amy Grey, the graphics designer for the library. “Once the staff saw what I was doing they brought in their own items.”

The pieces in the exhibit are from a variety different times and locations, and this diversity allows for an interesting, pulled-back view of how American society has changed over the years, Grey said.

“One piece is a receipt for someone to rent a slave,” said Evelyn Moos, an intern with MASC.

There are also Valentine’s Day cards from the ‘20s that show a blind beggar and an Indian that would never be acceptable to sell now, which shows what politics and society were like in past decades, Grey said.

“Ephemera can speak a lot about the society in which it was produced,” she said.

Grey made flyers for the exhibit, each one with a unique image on it. She said she wonders if, one day hundreds of years from now, these flyers will be an indication to people how our life was.

“What is interesting is ephemera can tell you about what is important at the time,” Grey said. “Like the Whole Bowl coaster speaks to the whole food and vegan trend that has been going on the last few years.”

Scrapbookers and collectors will understand how interesting and important ephemera can be, but MASC‘s staff hopes to spread this knowledge to the public.

“The beauty of ephemera is it is very present, then it quickly becomes very rare,” Bond said. “It is a way to show us what we throw away.”

The Ephemera exhibit goes hand-in-hand with the common reading book for this year, “Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash,” because the entire exhibit showcases used materials, and they plan to recycle the banners they made for the exhibit, Bond said.

“Ephemera is a way to remember events,” Bond said.

“Ephemera: Yesterday’s Trash, Today’s Archive” will be open through March in the lower level of the Holland/Terrell Library. Open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.