I need to brag about my donation to the City of Sydney Archives Ephemera Collection while I’m still in SSP mode. I blogged about The Past in Print: Community Ephemera Project a few months ago, encouraging ephemera nuts to donate items that reflect Sydney life. This project is about collecting materials that are usually disposed of (pamphlets, flyers, tickets, beer coasters, and business cards) that tell a story of a certain time, place, or event. In relation to Sydney, ephemera material becomes a rich source of information about the evolution of the city’s communities and suburbs.
This project is therapeutic because it requires me to examine what life in Sydney means to me on a fundamental level. I don't know how to answer this, having experienced what I believe were Sydney’s best years in the 80s and 90s. I remember reading a novel as a teenager by the travel writer Jan Morris who wrote admiringly about Sydney in the early 80s. She professed something about ‘Sydney in 1984 ... this workers’ paradise is as good as it will ever be’. I was too young to understand the underlying meaning, but I did become slightly concerned that my home turf was on the precipice of a moral and social decline that I was powerless to stop. I guess that’s how I feel about Sydney in 2012.
Now that the race to the bottom is underway, the definition of ‘life’ in twenty-first century Sydney has changed remarkably. It's life, but not as I know it. My generation felt the confines of the gilded cage in the suburbs, and so had to flee to the freedoms that awaited us in the inner city. The irony in 2012 is that the gilded cage has extended to the communities that traditionally symbolised freedom, bohemianism, and good times for stifled youth. It’s become a sad fact of Sydney life that only yuppies and bean counters can afford to live in Newtown today. So for me, life in Sydney means having planned and exact movements: cult sinema in Annandale, the esoteric bookshop in Glebe, a friend’s healing centre in Balmain, The Annandale Hotel, Urchin Books in Marrickville, bush tracks along the Parramatta River, the Great Western Highway stretching to the Blue Mountains, avoiding the CBD, avoiding as many people as possible …
On an esoteric level, Sydney holds little meaning for me, but perhaps that’s the challenge I face as a spiritual being living in the mundane world. Living a devotional life doesn’t mean disappearing into the sanctuary of Katoomba but to find the sacred in the guts of the city. The material that I have donated to the City of Sydney archives reflects what I hold as consecrated: ephemera concerning art exhibitions, live music, theatre, films, festivals, markets, and zines. This link provides a blurb about my collection.
It's natural to nurse a nostalgia for our material history and to develop an emotional attachment to our 'stuff'. Most of us use objects to construct our personal narrative. If you're like me and want to preserve your material history as well as the history of Sydney’s communities, click on this link and contact the good folk at city archives.