Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cleaning the Basement

My mom is making me go through the boxes of stuff in our basement – books, notes, paper trails from my years of schooling and other activities.  I thought a lot about how much fun I had at various times of my life, how much I’ve learned since then, typical sentimental stuff.  I also thought about how things serve as tactile reminders of what we were.  For me, it is mostly paper.  But I imagine for others it’s more object-based.

It turns out I was funny and awkward before, kind of like I am now, only in a younger sort of way.  It’s fun to see my writing develop through my education.  When I was a kid I started novels in notebooks.  I have several of them stowed in the basement for me to read later.  None were finished.  This is an artifact of my nerdy adolescence.  Is it any surprise that this same person is now a compulsive blogger and graduate student, with delusions of poetry fame?

It was also interesting to think about how much technology has changed recently.  I have so many things archived on floppy disc and photographic paper.  And even more just printed on paper, written by hand.  What will my children have to store in my basement?  A few cds or a memory key with some photos and school work (complete with powerpoint)?  What does it mean that our history is becoming less and less tactile?  It’s not that big of a deal for my hypothetical biographers; so what if we lose all record of what happened to me in the year 2005?  But on a larger scale, I wonder if it will matter to all of us.  What kind of archives will future historians use to figure out how our lives were.  Blogs?  Email archives?  Online photo albums?  Will the abundance of public information about the everyday make it impossible to conclude what is banal and what is of note?  Perhaps this is the responsibility of the academy – to sift through the present and find themes and events that will be important to the future.  Like me, paging through my high school journals and placing them carefully in the “keep” box, and putting my biology notes lovingly in the garbage bag.  I’ll leave it to my biographers to cull through the reams I left and find a few key quotes to include in their book.  Or more likely to an older, less sentimental me.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

I had a similar cleaning-out-the-basement experience last summer. It amazes me how objects become talismans of memory- I was reminded of so many things that I never would have thought about if not for the artifacts preserving them.