Q:  I have lots of fascinating historical photographs/letters/postcards/documents, would you like them?

A:  I’d never say no to an addition to my collection but I’d highly recommend that you first offer them to your local museum or a national archive.  They are the experts and can make them available as a resource to a greater number of researchers.

Q:  What is the best way to store old documents/photographs/postcards?

A:  Keep them somewhere dry and cool.  I’d recommend buying some envelopes made from acid free paper.  Also make sure you keep them well away from rubber bands, cello tape, paper clips and any kinds of pests.

To be on the safe side I’d also recommend that you scan them and store them electronically at multiple locations.  Disasters can and do happen so it is better to be safe than sorry.

Q:  What is ‘Ephemera’?

A:  Ephemera is best described as the bits of paper that fly in and out of your life and are usually thrown out such as tickets, bills, fliers, menus etc.  My collection includes those items as well as letters, postcards, photographs and anything else that I find interesting.

Q:  How do you tell if your items are real or fake?

A: If it is a copy of Elvis Presley’s 1958 Army Pay Book then alarm bells would start ringing but there is little worth in reproducing the majority of the documents in my collection.

It is something I have come across though and over time one does get a feel for what is original and what is not.  There are also some topics that I’m naturally very wary of, for example anything with the word ‘Titanic’ or ‘Zeppelin’ on it.

Q:  Where on earth did you get all this stuff?

A:  I’ve been collecting since I was a young child and picked up most items from antique shops, fairs, garage sales, auctions, other collectors, friends and family and in more recent years the Internet.

Q:  Why would families get rid of things like that?

A:  Some families die off without descendants and some just don’t value these things as much as others.  I consider a lot of the items in my collection as orphans, many of which I obtain with very little information about where they came from.  Where possible I try to restore their provenance through research.  A photograph of a man in front of a building doesn’t tell as much when we don’t know the location and identity.

Q:  I’ve found an error!

A: Please do let me know!  I’m by no means an expert on many of the subjects I write about and I’m always keen to learn more.  Many images featured in my collection started their relationship with me as complete mysteries and I’d be genuinely delighted to shed more light on them.

Q: What are your favourite historical movies/TV shows?

A:  My all time favourite historical television dramas are Sharpe, Band of Brothers, Cadfael, Foyles War and Deadwood.  I’m also a sucker for Antiques Roadshow and loved the recent Homeland series.

Too many to list!  But some of my most favourite historical films are The Light Horseman, Dark Blue World, Aces High, The Blue Max, Battle of Britain, The Longest Day, Master and Commander, Titanic and Gallipoli (I have my fingers crossed that Peter Jackson will make a WW1 feature film sometime soon!).

Q:  Can we hire you?

A:  I’m currently flying a desk fulltime but I’m always open to offers and might be able to work something out for the right project.

2 replies »

  1. Do you like Boardwalk Empire? I love the scenes where they show Bertillon mugshots. Re Ephemera, you definition is perfect but I think, in reality, it is we who are the ephemera. We die and rot but more and more often the paper, postcards and photos we generate are kept and treasured.

    • Boardwalk Empire is one of those shows that are on my “wait until I have a boxed DVD and watch them all in a weekend” list. From what I’ve seen it looks amazing but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet.

      I completely agree! We are indeed ephemeral and are nothing more than temporary custodians of this earth.

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