With the arrival of May Day, it seemed to me a natural thing to go exploring in our so-called “Bloom Ephemera” collection. To do so is to experience almost pure randomness and happenstance.
The collection, consisting of 88 record cartons, is an unsorted amalgamation of printed matter from the 1960s and 1970s, almost all of which from a left-wing/counterculture perspective. It is the unprocessed counterpart to our Marshall Bloom Alternative Press Collection, which came to us through the late Marshall Bloom ’66, who co-founded Liberation News Service in 1967 to supply news stories to the thousands of “underground” alternative newspapers springing up all over the country.
What I discovered in my exploration of the Bloom Ephemera is that it really does not really consist of “ephemera” at all — at least not as traditionally defined as “paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles” (Merriam-Webster). It consists, in fact, chiefly of periodicals — and while periodicals (magazines, newspapers, newsletters, etc.) have a limited active life and might in that sense be considered somewhat ephemeral, they are regular publications that libraries, for example, systematically retain (as opposed to handbills and ticket stubs, which they do not).
Some of the magazines here, I’m sure, are duplicates of those found in the Bloom Alternative Press Collection. Some are fairly mainstream popular magazines (e.g., Commonweal, Ramparts) that don’t closely fit the definition of “alternative.” But much else is wonderfully obscure and one-of-a-kind: newsletters put out by tiny leftist organizations, press releases, zines, local free newsweeklies, and so on.
The collection seems to have a mixed provenance. Some items bear labels addressed to individuals in Washington, D.C., but there is also much else that is addressed to Liberation News Service, 160 Claremont Ave., New York, NY. The material dates to as late as 1975. With the eventual decline of the New Left movement after the end of the Vietnam War, LNS ceased operations around that time.
Unfortunately, the research value of the Bloom Ephemera Collection is compromised in its current random state. Undoubtedly it contains rich and fascinating documentation of the New Left and the myriad socio-political issues it encompasses, but any researchers seeking material on a specific topic within it would need to be very dogged in their pursuit!