Open House – Cabinets of Wonder

Did you make it to Open House this weekend, Melburnians? I managed to get to a few places including the Limelight Studios and Salvation Army Heritage Centre (who knew the Salvos were one of the pioneers of the film industry as well as having great opshops?!) and Gordon Place, but my highlight was the Royal Historical Society Victoria. Like most of the places I visited, it’s open at other times of the year, not just on Open House weekend, and until August 22 it’s hosting an exhibition that will have KonMari followers quaking in their joy-sparking boots.


As a collector of all kinds of things that *some* people might consider crap, I felt all kinds of delight seeing the objects that the members of the Ephemera Society of Australia had decided were worth keeping. Travel posters and stickers, souvenir snowdomes, cards printed with kangaroos, vintage haberdashery, biscuit tins… Cabinets of Wonder has it all.




I’ve never heard of Connie Christie but she was apparently extremely popular as a children’s author back in the day. How sweet is this book?

rhsv2Old travel advertisements are so glamorous…



… and so quirky!



Some people’s collections were pretty quirky too – although this one was also a comment on our throwaway culture. All these disposable cups were found on the street, and if you think of the number of people you see every day walking around with takeaway cups, a collection like this could probably be achieved within an hour or two.


(Rant warning… here I go… Yes, most of these cardboard cups are recyclable, but it’s better not to create waste at all if you can help it. If you still use disposable cups for your takeaway coffees, shame on you!)

The oddest (and maybe most devotedly documented) ephemera collection was a record of life’s minutiae by way of paper serviettes, restaurant receipts and various wrappers that were stuck into decades’ worth of exercise books.



This is kind of like an analogue version of Instagram, with every meal eaten out documented, even if it was only something from a crappy corner shop or fast food place, which you wouldn’t think would be worth noting. But did you know McDonalds once had prawns on the menu? Well, thanks to this collector noting (probably back in the ’80s) that he tried them – and didn’t rate them – now I do.

That guy should win a medal for being so meticulous… which a fellow Ephemera Society member could lend him from their collection, of course.


Well, not medals, more like badges. But an impressive array nonetheless!

I have soooo much crap ephemera from my school days and childhood (as well as more recently!) that is still in great condition and I was hoping a museum might take it, but I get the impression that the donation process is a bit bureaucratic. Instead, on the advice of the lady at the historical society, I’m going to get in touch with the ephemera-philes and ask if any of them would like my old brochures, school song books, stickers, fruit can labels, swing tags etc etc. Judging from the super-niche nature of some of these collections, I’m sure there will be someone out there who will be happy to take them!