The Collection

Ephemera

noun

  1. Something of no lasting significance– usually used in plural.

  2. plural : paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles.

After reading the above definition (source), it should come as no surprise that the collection “Radical Ephemera and Underground Publications,” poses unique digitization problems, mostly stemming from the fact that these manuscripts are ephemeral in nature.

MS-0013-01-26-002
“…The SDSC Strike Committee calls on you to shut down the campus Thursday and Friday to protest the government’s military aggression against the people at home and abroad.”

This collection, as the name states, is composed of a wide-variety of materials, the vast majority of which were printed quickly on low-quality paper. In a hurry to post the fliers and publish the newsletters, the creators of these documents often did not care if the type set was perfectly level or if the paper was loaded correctly.

The Strike Committee, who produced the flier to the right, posted these around the SDSU campus (then San Diego State College) to gather support for a strike. The type is legible, due in large part to the persistence of the ink. However, one large problem is found at the bottom of the page. Due to the slanted type, the text, believed to say, “US out of Vietnam NOW,” and the bottom of the fist/peace image, has been eliminated from the flier due to quick and haphazard reproduction.

Additionally, as is clear in this flier and the one below, these ephemera often were treated carelessly: large creases, wrinkled edges, and folded corners are more than common throughout the collection. These can leave papers with uneven sides and cause additional problems when scanning.

MS-0013-01-09-002
Created by the Grass Roots Society, this flyer reads “May God shit on those who ripped down our commune. Be sure to vote today.”

The flier on the left is fading quickly, leaving much of the lettering and the peace sign in the bottom left corner nearly invisible.

With problems such as these, getting the best possible scan can prove really challenging. With the Strike Committee flier, crooked lettering means scans will look sloppy and slanted. With the Grass Roots Society flier, adjusting the coloring to make the lettering legible means inaccurately representing the color of the paper.

Deciding how far to edit images, such as to crop and rotate paper  or excessively adjust exposure or color, can be challenging. Having these conversations early in the scanning process will save time, and result in a digital collection to be proud of.

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