Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Nothing Important

When I attended my first RT Booklovers convention, I took time out to visit some of the landmarks of the city of Pittsburgh  - one of which was the Andy Warhol Museum.  I wasn't a particular fan of Warhol, but seeing his paintings en mass, and hearing how they came to be created, made me appreciate them a lot more.There was something else that was interesting too, which the museum guide told us about. Apparently Warhol would keep a box next to his desk into which he dropped all the inconsequential paper that came into his hands - tickets, flyers programmes, menus - all the odd bits and pieces that you acquire while living in the city.  When the box was full it was sealed, dated and stored, and a new one started.  The museum was beginning to open some of the boxes and collate the contents and were very excited about the project - a social history archive comprising pieces of paper that might never otherwise have survived.  I understand that the London museum archive is doing something similar in respect of all the odd papers to do with the Olympics.

We all collect ephemera, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. Essentially it is not meant to have a long life - it is stuff that is made to be thrown away. Unless someone puts an effort into preserving it - because it means something to them.  A ticket stub from a memorable gig, a concert or a night at the theatre, as a memento of the event. Maybe a more systematic collection, like a set of postcards. Perhaps it's totally random - try looking through the pocket of a coat, particularly one that you haven't worn for while, and see what's there. If all you have is fluff, then you're much better at avoiding those people in the street who shove flyers into your hands than I am.

I have a board in the kitchen covered with some of my memory makers. Small items that can have an influence way beyond their size - postcards, museum tickets, book marks. A handful of any of the things on my board could produce a story. And how many books are there that begin with an old letter, or a photograph, or maybe an official document that contains information that it shouldn't - even a credit card bill with details of expenditure that should never have happened? Those are plot shapers, but ephemera can also be mood music, to conjure an atmosphere, provide a bit of authentic detail, set a tone.

Small items - big effect.   

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