What the Heck is Ephemera and Why Does it Matter?

Spelling out the word “e p h e m e r a” has become a habit with me. It’s not used much in everyday chitchat. Why it’s important isn’t discussed much either.

Ephemera describes things are transient and fragile, especially paper, passing through our lives quickly and often discarded without a second thought. One special type of ephemera evokes memories of movie magic.

Movie posters of all types and sizes can instantly take us to another time and place—a Saturday matinee with Roy Rogers or the date night terror of “The Blob” (1958) with Steve McQueen. Emotional pay dirt, certainly, but why is it important?

Cinema ephemera consists of film accessories: movie posters, production stills, papers, and other artifacts issued to promote a film.

Popular films have shaped or responded to the prevailing ideals and beliefs of the public. Movie posters reflect this zeitgeist in color, design, and language of its era. Researchers, especially in sociology and art history, find tidbits or vast amounts of valuable data and insight captured in the transient image on a movie poster.

Ephemera is vulnerable to fire, flood, and the relentless march of time. The Institute of Cinema Ephemera is the only organization dedicated solely to the preservation of this increasingly valuable resource. www.cinemaphemera.org.

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