Our Ephemera Collection is a fascinating, and very varied, view of people, places and events in Wimbledon from the late Victorian period onwards, a snapshot of local history. Ephemera are generally printed items that were never intended to be kept or were just retained for a short time, such as menus, calendars, programmes, posters and flyers for events, campaigns, elections, shows, goods and services. Some are the junk mail of their time. Posters and flyers range from the one-off and handmade to the mass produced.
Our small Postcard Collection in some ways stands alone – it includes photographs, messages between people and businesses or members of groups, or social chat. Those that are written on may also be found in other parts of our Collections.
We try to keep the collection right up-to-date by collecting such items as those relating to Brexit, recent elections, COVID-19 in Wimbledon, and even some current junk mail and paper carrier bags.
Wimbledon Theatre programmes form the bulk of the Ephemera Collection going right back to 1910 when the theatre first opened and continue, though not in a complete run, through two World Wars into the 2000s. They give us an incredibly long ‘cast list’ of performers, playwrights, composers and directors. Successful plays went on to the West End and beyond, some were just local productions, but others have sunk without trace.
Theatre and other programmes, catalogues and booklets often contain advertisements, very much of their time and fun to look at and reflect on the types of products, services and prices offered by local businesses and shops in the past.