PULLMAN, Wash.—Trevor Bond, Washington State University head of the Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) department, will kick off the spring Common Reading Tuesdays lecture series Jan. 20 with a presentation on “Ephemera: Yesterday’s Trash, Today’s Archive.”

The lecture is set for 7 p.m. in room 203 of the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE) on the Pullman campus. It is open to the public at no charge. The topic of trash relates to this year’s Common Reading book for first-year students, “Garbology,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes.

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An artistic MASC exhibit of the same name as his lecture opened in Terrell Library in December and will run through March, with an opening reception set for Thursday, Jan. 22 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. in the MASC main lobby.  It features thousands of items from MASC collections—1932 tickets used by author Virginia Woolf to a Greek museum, a grocery receipt, kitschy 1950s Valentine’s Day cards, a 1903 totem pole-shaped lunch menu from Alaska-bound cruise liner S.S. Spokane, chewing gum wrappers, WSU event flyers, and more.

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Ephemera tell stories about the items’ original owners, their everyday life, and the era in which they lived, said Bond. The word refers to items that were supposed to be thrown away but weren’t—for example, ticket stubs, handwritten lists, junk mail, used boarding passes, and vacation brochures. It can be current slips tossed into a to-do box in the kitchen, or grandparents’ century-old love notes as yet undiscovered in a box from their estate sale.

“Transitory objects help humans remember events, places, and people,” Bond said. “Ephemera can therefore serve as the triggers of memory that help us recall our past experiences.” Or glimpse into the lives of others.

Why do we—or universities—keep ephemera? A descriptive panel at the MASC exhibit asks another tough question: “How do you organize and describe ephemera so they resemble a collection and not a hoard?” Evelyn Moos and Bond are exhibit co-curators with graphic designer Amy Grey.

The Common Reading Tuesdays series features faculty and guest experts speaking on topics relating to the year’s selected book. Thousands of WSU students and guests attend series presentations throughout the academic year. The Common Reading Program also partners with many campus units that host their own events and movie showings with ties to the book.

For a complete schedule of Common Reading Tuesdays speakers and Common Reading-aligned spring 2015 programming, visit the Common Reading Calendar.


MEDIA: Karen Weathermon, Common Reading Program Co-Director, WSU Office of Undergraduate Education, 509-335-5488, kweathermon@wsu.edu