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Ephemera have been defined as being 'the minor transient documents of everyday life' and can be considered to include most printed items apart from books. Perhaps the defining characteristic of ephemeral materials is that they have been produced for immediate use, not for posterity, and as a consequence provide historians with an insight into the life and culture of a time of a different nature to that found in official archives and records

guatemala The materials held in the Political Archives at ICS and ISA constitute a particular type of ephemera. The majority fit the criteria of being transient, but they document not everyday life but an aspect of life - politics - usually at a particular time - election time. As such they are an invaluable guide to the debates and controversies that seemed important to competing parties at the time, rather than those that have since been judged to be significant.

They offer the opportunity to test how far the narratives of political history written with hindsight have simplified or ignored issues and struggles which in retrospect seem irrelevant, doomed to failure or contrary to subsequent political developments.

The little that has been written on the subject of ephemera has generally been limited to discussions of pamphlet collections, works by the likes of Maurice Rickards (author of the Encyclopedia of Ephemera) essentially coming from a collecting rather than an academic standpoint or sociological works touching on ephemera as part of a discussion of implications for research of the use of different types of source. An attempt to redress this can be found in the paper 'Unnatural selection? The political materials collections in the Institute of Commonwealth Studies' by Danny Millum (to be published in the July 2005 edition of African Research and Documentation) , which seeks to indicate the value of the Political Archives collections as a whole for researchers and as part of this attempts to develop a method of approaching and evaluating ephemera as a source of historical knowledge.

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