Archive listed as Princeton University Library’s research e-resource for ephemera, can be accessed by the visually challenged
Ephemeral things can still be preserved for posterity, especially in this digital age. It is this very thought that prompted Jadavpur University alumnus Subhradeep Chatterjee to launch The Ephemeriad Project, an online museum of ephemera that can even be accessed by the visually challenged.
“Ephemera are any transitory written or printed matter that are not meant to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek ephemeros, meaning ‘lasting only one day, short-lived’,” Subhradeep writes in the archival site.
The website has been listed this month by the Princeton University Library as a suggested research e-resource.
“I have always been interested in objects of cultural history. I believe these objects often have stories and histories which need attention and study,” said Subhradeep, who did his master’s in English from Jadavpur University in 2020. The website was launched in October last year.
How it all began:
Subhradeep came upon the idea of an online museum for hosting images of antiques in 2018. In 2019, while working on Swedish matchbox ephemera for his master’s dissertation, he decided to launch a project dedicated exclusively to ephemera.
He named the website ‘Ephemeriad’ inspired by Homer’s Iliad and also Scribleriad and Dunciad, both literary works from the 18th century.
“Some of the ephemera on the website include a Chinese umbrella label from the 1990s, a luxury writing pad from England from the 1940s, a Prince Henry tobacco label from the 1960s and an Indian Airlines Boarding Pass from the 1980s. These are from my private collection,” Subhradeep said.
His friends have also contributed images, his favourites being those of theatre pamphlets from 1950s Kolkata (contributed by Shrubaboti Bose), Agfacolor Photo Negatives from the 1970s (contributed by Laboni Mukherjee), and a 1992 Lufthansa timetable.
What the online museum aims to do:
Apart from being a general archive that can be accessed by all, the aim of the project is to be a repository of content for academic researchers who are working on ephemera. The idea is also to ensure that the contents can easily be grasped by the visually challenged.
“One of my master’s courses was on Disability Studies, which encouraged me to look further into accessibility issues faced by the visually challenged. The posts on the website contain extensively detailed descriptions of the images, which can be read using screen-reading software for the visually impaired,” added Subhradeep.
The road ahead:
Creating an archiving space for objects of historical value and cultural heritage is on the cards. “I look forward to populating the website with more ephemera and adding other sections, such as antiques. The website is open to image contributions,” Subhradeep added.
He is working on recording the artefact descriptions and uploading audio with the posts so that people can listen in using their phone or computer screen’s reading applications and utilities.
Check out the archive here: www.ephemeriad.com and on its Facebook (www.facebook.com/EphemeriadProject) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ephemeriadproject/?hl=en) handles.