Ephemera as historical sources

Paint label      Showbag


Historical sources' survival may be the result of chance rather than deliberate and careful preservation. How do historians locate and use material that was never designed to be retained? This seminar considers the importance of ephemera: material that carries printed information that was not intended to be kept or preserved.

The seminar will be facilitated by Mandy Bede, President of the Ephemera Society of Australia. We will hear three presentations, followed by questions from the audience and opportunity for discussion. The presentations are:

Out of the bag and into the archive: Royal Melbourne Show ephemera

Presenter: Dr Annette Shiell, Senior Curator Heritage, Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria

Abstract: From tickets, posters, prize cards and maps to the ubiquitous showbag, the Royal Melbourne Show is a treasure trove for the ephemerist. As collection objects and historical resources, Show ephemera are both invaluable records of a community event and evocative snapshots of life.

Where worlds collide: ephemera in science

Presenter: Rebecca Carland, Senior Curator, History of Collections & Scientific Art at Museums Victoria

Abstract: Charged with the history of collections at Museums Victoria, Rebecca researches the people and motivations that shaped the collection. In this talk she reveals the surprising depth that can come from using the often ignored ephemera of natural history.  She will also touch on a recent project collecting ephemera from the School Strikes for Climate and their value in capturing this historic wave of youth protest.

Hazardous goods: the case of white lead in household paint

Presenter: Richard Aitken, a Melbourne-based historian, curator, and writer

Abstract: We tend to associate household paint charts and advertising leaflets with choice of colour or homemaking aspirations. Using ephemera as a primary documentary resource, this presentation will, however, chart another story—the popularity and decline of toxic lead-based paint.

Bookings for this free event are now open. To reserve your seat, click on the RSVP button at the foot of this page.


With thanks to the series sponsors, Monash University Publishing and the Monash University History Program:

Monash University Publishing - some current titles   Monash University History Program 

and to the organising partners:

Old Treasury Building     Monash University History Program      HCV

The seminar is part of an ongoing series, Making Public Histories, that is offered jointly by the Monash University History Program, the History Council of Victoria and the Old Treasury Building. Each seminar aims to explore issues and approaches in making public histories. The seminars are open, free of charge, to anyone interested in the creation and impact of history in contemporary society. Click HERE to learn about other events in the series.

November 12, 2019 at 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Old Treasury Building
20 Spring St
East Melbourne, Victoria 3002
Google map and directions
Margaret Birtley · · 0418 814 957

Will you come?