Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ephemera experiment - pre-zine

I'm thinking about publishing a one-page zine. But this raises some questions:
  1. Why would someone pick up a zine?
  2. Why would someone keep a zine?
I have no fact-based answer for question 1. But I can try to answer question 2.
Through the years I have collected two boxes of ephemera. Mostly they're brochures I picked up during my holidays. This is a good opportunity to go through them and clean out a lot of paper. These are the first results:
  • Approximately 50% of my collected ephemera will be thrown away because they have lost relevance and interestingness.
What kind of ephemera have lost interestingness? These are the first raw data:
  1. Envelopes containing other ephemera - these contain no useful information.
  2. Receipts from shops and restaurants - most of the text has disappeared from this cheap thermal paper - most of these places have been forgotten, they don't bring back any memories.
  3. Events I didn't visit - these were picked up just in case.
  4. Exhibits I didn't visit - these were picked up just in case.
  5. Hyper-local information brochures - like a list of sermons from a local church - these seemed interesting at the time because of their hyper-locality, but I don't see how I could use this information.
  6. Maps of large areas - these are less interesting because I didn't visit most of the area and they don't add interesting context. Most likely I will not return there soon.
  7. Non-informative brochures of events I visited - these are not very interesting or special - they don't bring back memories.
  8. Maps of cities I passed through - here in St.Vith I just stopped and drank coffee, I had no time to visit the Ardennes battle memorials.
  9. Local curiosities - like this reproduction of the Asterix&Obelix village, it seemed weird then, but now it feels uninterestingly commercial.
  1. Transport tickets - bus, train and even plane tickets don't bring back so many memories as they should.
Thinking economically - as a hypothesis:
  • Value of ephemera - memories, reminders, souvenirs, curiosities, useful (shareable) information.
  • Cost of ephemera - storage space, time spent looking at them.


  1. Anonymous12 July, 2015

    I find this very interesting, and have a similar collection of ephemera from various trips. I should try a similar experiment and actually go through it at some point to see if it has retained its usefulness or value.

    I like the term hyper-local information, and I tend to agree that unless there is a very specific memory attached to it, it tends to remain a little too esoteric. But then of course that could be a positive thing in itself.

    There's also the idea of the relative importance of the mundane over time. Things now resting in museums were once ordinary everyday bits of life, produced, used and discarded without a thought. Perhaps that has become less true post-20th Century, I don't know.

    A very interesting post, and I can't wait to hear about the zine and the other 50% of your ephemera!

    1. Thanks for the comment. There will be more experimentation soon! I have a stack of recent ephemera and I will try to answer: "Why did I pick this up?"