After collecting ephemera for a number of years, you may be wondering what the best way to organize and keep track of everything really is. You’re not alone if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed when entering your room full of ephemera that has yet to be categorized.
Though my collection is still small, I went ahead and researched how to keep a growing collection well organized. I figured this would help have quick access to the pieces sought after. Whether you collect ephemera to sell or for personal pleasure, here are 5 tips to make sure you don’t lose sight of what you’ve collected.
1. Dejunk or sort through old pieces.
If you have an extensive collection of years’ worth of items, it’s helpful to start by sorting through pieces you no longer want. These items can be sold or donated depending on what you’d like to do with them. Read Where Can I Sell Ephemera if you choose to go that route. By sorting through what you’d like to keep, you’ll be more enthusiastic about organizing your ephemera. Plus, clearing out what you don’t want frees up space for pieces you want to add to your collection!
2. Choose the method of storing that works best for you.
Depending on how much space you have and what makes the most sense for you, there are a number of popular storing methods to keep your ephemera well organized. The following are safe ways to store and further preserve your ephemera:
- Acid-Free Filing Folders. These are expanding filing folders that allow you to clearly label each section. The linked ones here are acid-free, making them especially safe for the storing of vintage ephemera. These ones from Amazon come in a variety of colors so that you can keep each format or theme separated according to color.
- Binders with Acid-Free Sheet Protectors. I’ve linked some standard binders and sheet protectors from Amazon that would be helpful for organizing your ephemera. Again, these are Acid-Free protectors to ensure the safe storing of your ephemera. How Should I Store Ephemera is a great article to further understand the proper storing methods of vintage ephemera.
- Filing Cabinet with Hanging Filing Folders. A simple filing cabinet is nice for filing away your ephemera pieces. However, you’ll want to make sure you place the ephemera in protective sleeves like these Mylar ones from Amazon. Acid- Free Sheet Protectors would also work great in the filing folders.
- Shoe boxes or other cardboard boxes. This is the most cost-effective way to store your loose ephemera pieces. By simply labeling each box with what’s inside, you’ll know just where to find something. However, make sure to put your postcards, or whatever you’re filing away, in protective plastic sleeves, as mentioned earlier.
- Aluminum Case. For a safer and a bit more pricey way to store small pieces of ephemera like postcards or trade cards, Amazon sells these cases that are sturdy, durable, and safe for all your ephemera storing needs. They look as if they’d definitely stand the test of time!
- Poster Tubes. For larger ephemera pieces like posters or old advertisements, poster tubes like these are available if you’d like to keep them rolled up and stored away nicely. Before putting the posters directly into the tubes, make sure to pack them properly in a safe plastic sleeve, like this one.
- For a full list of what you should NOT do when storing ephemera, read How Should I Store Ephemera.
3. Decide if you’d like to sort your ephemera by format or topic.
Once you’ve picked the storing method that works best for you, depending on what you’ve collected, it’s best to decide in what way you’d like to sort your ephemera. For example, if you choose to sort by format, you would file all the menus together, postcards together, and so on. In this way, it’s easy to locate the type of ephemera you’re looking for.
On the contrary, if you’d like to sort by topic or theme of ephemera, then you would need to make a list of topics your ephemera consists of. For example, you may have a lot of ephemera which focus on a certain holiday, like Halloween. If this is the case, regardless of what’s being filed away, you’d place all Halloween focused ephemera together. This method is especially helpful for crafters who are looking for that specifically themed ephemera to go with their art.
Let’s say, however, you’ve collected largely the same themed ephemera. In this case, it would be wise to sort by form so that your ephemera isn’t bunched in one main group, but well categorized. Oppositely, let’s say you have a lot of postcards or the same form of ephemera. In this instance, you’d want to sort by topic so that they are nicely arranged and quickly identifiable.
4. Sort the ephemera chronologically within each form or topic.
When dealing with a large number of ephemera, it’s helpful to specify each form or topic by date. Creating this subtopic allows you to better keep each section at a manageable amount and still be able to find what you’d like to pull out to use or sell. You can choose to sort by date of printing, the date on the paper, or by the date purchased. Whichever way makes more sense to you when you want to locate a certain piece is what you should go with!
If needed, you can further break the sub-groups into even smaller groups. For example, if you have a lot of postcards from the 1900s, you could then create a smaller group of postcards from 1900-1949 and 1949-1999. If you still find that you have too much in each one of those categories, feel free to break it down even smaller. Much of the categorizing is dependent on how much you have to organize.
5. Clearly label with a thumbnail picture of the theme or name of the form with the corresponding date.
Labels like these from Amazon are a great way to make sure that each folder/binder is clearly tagged. Plus, the ones linked are printer compatible, so you can easily type the label and print them off.
Another way to label each format or theme of ephemera is with tab dividers. These are most helpful when using a binder to organize. I’ve used these Avery ones from Amazon and find them sturdy and easy to use.
Using a simple clip art picture to identify a specific theme is a great way to make sure you can clearly categorize incoming ephemera. Be sure to add in the specific dates you’d like to categorize by for further convenience.
With these 5 simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to organizing and maintaining your ephemera collection! If you’re looking for unique ways to display the ephemera you’ve collected over the years, read Top 10 Creative Ways to Display Your Ephemera. Comment below if there’s another way you like to keep your ephemera organized!