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Survivors of a Throwaway Culture: Railroad Ephemera and its Research Value

Ephemeral items are those that have a limited lifespan. They are generally discarded after serving their intended purpose. For example, a program for an annual event is rarely kept after the event unless the event holds certain sentimental value. The program may be left at the event or, at times, brought home where it sits on the kitchen counter until finally being thrown away.

"Survivors of a Throwaway Culture: Railroad Ephemera and its Research Value" focuses on the indispensable research value of these temporary items. One can refer to the materials for additional information on railway history, train culture, and the experience of riding the train. They can also be used to address research topics relating to how people dressed for train travel and other social and cultural aspects of the time period. Graphic design techniques implemented in the advertising pamphlets may be particularly valuable for artists, advertisers, and graphic designers studying design practices of a particular era.

The exhibit features examples of railroad ephemera found at McCain Library & Archives. Highlights include examples of local and international time tables, railway advertising pamphlets, menus, newsletters, ink blotters, and other temporary items.

The exhibit will be available until December 13, 2007, from 8:00-5:00 Monday through Friday on the 3rd floor of McCain Library. For additional information about the exhibit, contact Jennifer Brannock at jennifer.brannock@usm.edu or 601.266.4347.

Image: Advertising brochure for an improved relay produced by Hall Signal Company (1911)

Cover of A New Signal Relay