Ephemera

Ephemera are small printed items intended for a short, or ephemeral, lifespan. These include pamphlets, flyers, campaign cards, church bulletins, and menus. Because such items are often stored upright in filing cabinets, they are often referred to as "vertical files."

Among our extensive ephemera holdings are art ephemera going to back to about 1900, political ephemera going back to about 1840, and theatre ephemera going back to about 1820. What makes our outstanding ephemera collection especially significant, however, is the depth of its indexing and that fact that the index is searchable online. 

What are vertical files?

The vertical file collection preserves flyers and brochures from more than 8,000 Louisiana groups, organizations, businesses, and associations, including:

  • Restaurants and nightclubs
  • Heritage and preservation societies
  • LGBT businesses and organizations
  • Horticultural societies and garden clubs
  • Social welfare and charitable organizations
  • Synagogues, churches, and religious groups
  • Theaters, cabarets, and performing arts clubs
  • Neighborhood and community organizations
  • Social, ethnic, and fraternal organizations
  • Art societies, galleries, fairs, and auctions
  • Hurricane Katrina recovery organizations
  • Environmental and conservation groups
  • Business and civic affairs societies

Flyers, brochures, and handouts are often the only sources for a surprising wealth of information:

  • An event flyer can record the organizers, date, location, purpose, special guests, and sponsors.
  • A brochure can preserve a society’s mission, goals, projects, officers, and board members.
  • A political handout can reveal a candidate’s name, race, sex, age, party, party faction, platform, resume, business, offices held, endorsements, and a candidate’s image.

Three areas of special strength for the collection are:

  • New Orleans art gallery flyers from 1913 onward.
  • Louisiana political ephemera from 1845 onward.
  • New Orleans theater flyers from 1835 onward.

Your search results will identify file folder titles as listed in the index. To see the folders containing the original items, please bring your print-out to Room 202 of Jones Hall, where the collection is preserved. An attendant will help you retrieve the folders.

No materials may be checked out or removed from the room. Also, because of the age and fragility of many items, photocopying may be limited.

We Need Your Help!

Our ephemera collection is a rare and significant resource for preserving and studying all aspects of Louisiana life and culture. To maintain the collection, we rely on individuals willing to donate brochures, menus, programs, tickets, invitations, and campaign materials.

If you have a box or drawer of Louisiana brochures or menus that you have picked up over the years, we would appreciate your donating them to us. If you go to a restaurant, please ask for a menu and save it for us. If you receive campaign literature in the mail, please set it aside for us.

To donate Louisiana ephemera or to discuss other ways you can help us preserve Louisiana's unique heritage, please contact:

Leon C. Miller
Head, Louisiana Research Collection
Room 202
Jones Hall
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library
Tulane University
New Orleans LA 70118
ph: 504-314-7833
fx: 504-865-5761
lmiller@tulane.edu

ephemeral, a. (n.)
A. adj. 1. a. Of diseases: Beginning and ending in a day. b. Of insects, flowers, etc.: Existing for one day only, or for a very few days. 2. a. In more extended application: That is in existence, power, favour, popularity, etc. for a short time only; short-lived; transitory.
ephemera, noun
ephem·era Inflected Form(s): plural ephemera also ephem·er·ae or ephemeras Etymology: New Latin, from Greek ephemera, neuter plural of ephemeros Date: 1650 1: something of no lasting significance —usually used in plural 2: ephemera plural : paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles