The National Library has been selectively collecting Australian printed ephemera since the early 1960s as a record of Australian life and social customs, popular culture, national events, and issues of national concern.
In addition, the Library also selectively collects ephemera from the Asia/Pacific region related to particular events or socio-political groups of significance.
The Library's Australian ephemera collection include all kinds of material: minor publications and pamphlets as well as leaflets, handbills, invitations, cards, menus, junk mail etc. Larger publications, such as theatre programs or retail trade catalogues, are also included. Information content, visual and design elements, period representation, portraiture are the key elements taken into consideration when selecting items for inclusion in the collection.
Australian ephemera is indexed by subject and arranged in named sequences:
- General ephemera
- Australian performing arts programs and ephemera (PROMPT)
- Trade catalogues
- Programs and invitations
- Geography and travel
- Formed collections
We aim to collect Federal election campaign materials as comprehensively as possible, including websites and, efforts are made to form collections which document national events and observances (eg the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, 2008 World Youth Day, Year of the Surf Life Saver, Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants).
The Library's Asia/Pacific ephemera collections include both printed material such as leaflets, posters, flyers, stickers as well as objects such as badges, t-shirts and caps. It is focused either on specific events such as elections, or on socio-political groups that play an important role in the region.
Descriptions are available in the Library's online catalogue for all categories of material in the ephemera collection and Items may be requested by eCallslip for reading room use.
Also in our collection, Fragments of the everday: a book of Australian ephemera is a fascinating compilation of items from our treasure trove of ephemera, available from the National Library Bookshop.
Explore our ephemera collection by viewing the highlights below:
- Federal election campaign ephemera
- Footwear industry; Glass industry & trade; Ansett - View trade catalogue examples
- Nellie Melba, Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge (performers), Bangarra Dance Theatre (dance company), J.C. Williamson (theatre company), Garnet H. Carroll (entrepreneur), William Anderson (entrepreneur) - View examples of performing arts ephemera in the PROMPT collection
- Collection of digitised menus, including articles written about this collection such as Food for thought and Speak what you eat.
- Rabbit control ephemera collection