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Special Collections & Archives: Ephemera

Rare Ephemera Explained

Ephemera is material, usually printed documentation, that was created for a specific purpose but was not meant to last. Examples include advertisements, postcards, pamphlets, ticket stubs, posters, event programmes, and also tour guides like those pictured above.

Researchers can use ephemeral materials to help fill in gaps in the historical record, gaining insight into the people, places and events which led to their creation, and a more complete picture of life at a given point in time.


Postcard Collection

Special Collections houses over 20,000 historical photograph and picture postcards which represent a fantastic primary source for research. In an era before mobile phones, postcards were an ideal medium to send out a quick message. Now, they can be used as clues to decipher history - singly, they can represent the sole surviving image of an location or an individual at a particular point in time. In quantity, they can be useful as markers for popular tastes and attitudes of an era, documenting changes in styles of architecture, clothing, and modes of transport over time. Many of the postcards housed in Special Collections have passed through the postal system, and their stamps, postmarks and messages can add great interest.


Conlan Coin Collection

This collection illustrates the history of the Irish coinage from 1015 to 1826. The collection was donated in 1991 by Fr Patrick Conlan who assembled the collection during the 1970s and 1980s. The collection's contents and its scope reflect exemplary scholarship, a keen eye for quality, and a determination to acquire coins that would each illustrate a specific phase and period of Irish numismatic history, particularly with reference to Limerick. The collection contains two examples of worked-metal pieces (generally referred to as ring-money) that may have had a symbolic use as much as a monetary value in prehistoric Ireland. A representative set of tokens, each with a notional monetary value and used for the exchange of goods by various businesses and institutions in the early modern period, completes the collection.

O'Kelly Bank Note Collection

This collection of notes issued by some of the private country banks of the early nineteenth century was formed by Eoin O'Kelly (1905-1997), a professional banker who served in the Provincial Bank of Ireland and who retired as manager in Limerick in 1968.  His was not a mere acquisitive hobby but the underpinning of a systematic scholarly quest.  In 1953 he presented a thesis on early nineteenth century banking at University College Cork.  The thesis formed the basis of his book The Old Private Banks and Bankers of Munster, i, bankers of Cork and Limerick cities (Cork, 1959).  The collection, which consists of thirty-nine notes, photographs of two others, and a 1727 ready reckoner, was presented to the University of Limerick by Eoin O'Kelly's daughter, Sheila O'Kelly, in 1999.












Theatre ephemera - programme for Augustin Daly's Company of Comedians

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