THE EPHEMERA SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA INC. (ESA)
The Ephemera Society of Australia is a longstanding association of individuals bound by their personal and professional passion for collecting ephemera.
ESA was formally established in August 1987 to unite collectors in Australia. It came about through the efforts of a visiting museum curator, Honor Godfrey, who was an organiser and member of the English Society. Honor was a paper bag collector. She was an inspirational leader and in Melbourne in late 1986, she gathered together a small group to investigate interest in setting up a society here for collectors. The first meeting was attended by Andy McGuigan, Colin Duggan and Murray Walker. (Murray was the innovative curator of two great recent exhibitions, Colonial crafts of Victoria at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1979 and more importantly The Great SIO exhibition at the Museum of Victoria in 1985 (a sesqui-centenary exhibition for Victoria). A month later as momentum grew, Mimmo Cozzolino, designer and author of Symbols of Australia (1980) joined the group.
Honor and her team decided to launch an Australian ephemera society with: a newsletter, The Ephemerist; an exhibition at the Queen’s Hall at the State Library of Victoria; and the first ephemera of the ESA – a poster and a combined brochure and membership application form.
Meanwhile at the State Library of Victoria, the reception for the proposed ESA was very warm because the Picture Librarian Christine Downer was building on a treasure trove of postcards, invitation, tickets and other ephemeral items already in the Picture Collection.
Right from the start there was debate about the merits of using the term ephemera – what does it mean? The first membership inquiry form ESA produced asked people to consider joining ‘the whatsy which society’.
Grand ephemera fairs
The twice yearly ephemera and collectables’ fairs in Melbourne have been the one constant in ESA activities. The fair was first held in the Swanston Street foyer of the State Library of Victoria. When the fair outgrew the library, it moved to the Malvern Town Hall, a well recognised location for antique and collectables fairs. The town hall was proximate to many antique, collectables and bookshops.
Initially these were indeed ‘grand ephemera fairs’ with stalls filling the main hall and the banquet hall; the town hall foyer was used for displays by other collecting societies. As well as the trading of ephemera, ESA was also able to offer a valuation service courtesy of Rick Milne.
During the original excitement surrounding trading on the internet, the fairs declined. There were fewer stalls and fewer shoppers. ESA therefore looked for a smaller location for the fairs and in March 2013 moved to the Kew Heights Sports Club.
This location was short-lived and so it turned out was the decline in the interest in the fairs. The fairs are now settled at a site in Camberwell – the Parkview Room in the Camberwell Civic Centre, convenient to the Camberwell Sunday Market.
The fairs’ success over the years has been due to the quality of the material on offer, the expertise of stallholders, the range of material and the goodwill of many members of ESA.
Those running the fairs have included: Alan Waters, Honor Godrey, Kris Waters and Garry James. The last has been ably assisted by David Harris, Mick Stone and Grant Shallard (publicity).
The ESA has always produced its own well designed ephemera. And in this regard has always benefited from the efforts of Melbourne designers (including Mimmo Cozzolino, Phil Ellett, Natasha Dumais, Andrew Budge, et al.) and design students from Swinburne University.
The ESA has been determined that its publications be collectable. Much to the inconvenience of libraries and binders, Ephemera News has not maintained a standard size and has been published in many formats – printed on a paper bag, as a poster, folded like a napkin, reproducing a 45 record, with a hand delivered wine stain. The covers of the newsletters 1-49 and then 51 are being digitized and will eventually be reproduced here. In the meantime here are four covers: No 7–Jun 1986, No 33–Dec 1995, No 41–Jun 1998, No 46–Jun 2002
Other publications have included a Christmas badge, posters, tickets, membership cards, letterhead and a bumper sticker that was included with the bumper issue of Ephemera News.
The ESA’s opening exhibition “What is ephemera?” was a great success and drew on the strengths of members and their collections. Some of these early members were set designers who ensured that the collections were beautifully displayed. Our second exhibition “Growing up in Australia” was in 1988 also at the State Library of Victoria
In the future, we see these exhibitions as being ‘virtual’ and viewed via this website.
Meetings begat conferences begat symposia
Collectors like to talk about their collections and learn about ephemera. To this end the ESA under Honor and then Kris Waters maintained a programme of ‘show and tell’ meetings with the occasional formal talk from an expert or visit to a site (Spicers Paper and Sands Cards).
This culminated in a conference at the Meat Market in Melbourne with a range of collectors and historians speaking. We also saw designer Trevor Flett’s fabulous film about a collection of smiles. This longer event gave collectors a better opportunity to hear about and talk about collecting. Since 2002 there have been regular one day symposia.
Our 2014 symposium was on 24 May.