Ephemera—Corporate History’s Secret Sauce

BAYADA Home Health Care sponsors an annual adaptive rowing regatta for athletes with disabilities. This oar (a piece of ephemera) was signed by rowers for BAYADA founder Mark Baiada.

In corporate storytelling, formal records help with fact-finding but they never tell the whole tale. You need visual color commentary. You need ephemera. Meaning: things that weren’t necessarily meant to be saved. Such as:

Postcards of your original location or your fabulous expansion.
Index cards or charity invitations showing that your organization has supported a certain cause, year in and year out. (Or, if you’re a hospital, bassinet cards.)
Pay packets and wage summaries—a good way to learn a worker’s salary in, say, 1940.
Anniversary event photos—one of CorporateHistory’s clients celebrated its 100th anniversary with jousting and archery.
Account books—you may find you’ve served a client non-stop for 133 years, as a professional services client of ours did.
Tickets. The founder of one of our clients was scheduled to fly home from Europe on the air ship Hindenberg on May 22, 1937. The Hindenburg crashed on May 6. He kept the ticket all his life as a good luck charm.
Logo wear, if you’re in the service business like our great client Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply.
Business cards – for the progression of logos and titles. Who doesn’t have business cards? Trust me, someone has saved them.

Bottom line: Ephemera IS findable, whether it’s on eBay or hidden in your own files. As I always say to clients, part of the fun of corporate storytelling is to unearth your treasures, weave them into your unique narrative, and use them to punch up your About Us pages, timelines, and social media posts.