Personal Records

Personal Records by Natalie ParkerI just finished reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Ever heard of it?  It’s what the movie Lincoln was based on.

I can say many things about the book (you should read it), but what amazed me was the way people kept personal records back then.

Goodwin goes into incredible detail in the book – what people where thinking, what Lincoln’s countenance was during a meeting, what he decided and when he decided it, what his cabinet thought about those decisions and so much more.

How was she able to weave this story together?  Personal records.  People back then kept their letters and wrote in diaries and journals what they thought about things.  The end of the book has pages and pages of references to these personal papers.

This makes me think how fleeting our personal records are today.  The records Goodwin consulted are safely resting in historical societies, archives, or other similar cultural institutions.  Most of our personal information now is electronic.

Remember when I said that paper is sometimes a more reliable format than electronic?  Think about Goodwin’s book and where she got that information from.


8 thoughts on “Personal Records

  1. I think this goes back to our aside from the previous post. The stories we tell ARE important! When we say “I felt” or “I thought” and add them to an itinerary of a trip or other facts from our daily life, we record our personal history.

    I live in South Florida and in fact grew up here. Hurricanes and hurricane preparedness are a way of life for us. The years from 2004-6 were full of hurricanes. Coming and going. Even if they didn’t hit us directly we were close enough to the path that we had to prepare. Now, the local news media spends 3-4 days giving detailed info on how to prepare in a way they never did in my growing up years. Mostly because South Florida is so full of non-natives there is always an emphasis on having ice and water and batteries. These things have become sooo exaggerated (in my humble opinion) that I made lists in my scrapbook about how the media presented it and poked some fun at them. My lists look something like this: Tuna, ice, crackers, water, bread, ice, peanut butter, water, canned veggies, ice, single-serve food items, water … you get the picture?!?!?!

    In pointing out this particular page/journalling in that album to a friend from out of town she laughed at my interpretation. But those little details are something only a native to disaster-prepping would get! I think it’s those little details that give personality to our scrapbooking. It gives a glimpse into regional life. (Now makes me wonder what people write in their albums who live in tornado alley and the earthquake zones.) People who live in rural areas MUST journal differently than a city-dweller like me. Our lives are so different! I think these stories are what MAKE a scrapbook. Without the stories a scrapbook is just a decorated album of favorite or memorable photos!

    On a scrapbooking business FB page, a woman once asked for suggestions on what to do with her albums when she died. She says she was aging, had no relatives to leave them to and didn’t know what else to do with them. Many people responded and had suggestions that included leaving them to local historical societies, museums and even to find a local anthropology department at a college. For just the reasons you mention above. So much of what we do as scrapbookers is a lost art!

    • I agree – the details are important.

      Also agree re a local historical society. I visited one here on my trip this week and there were a bunch of very old scrapbooks there.

      • I’ve almost buy old scrapbooks in antique stores. Part of me wants to rescue them from the dustbin of history. But then, I don’t know what I would do with them. They are always priced higher than I am willing to spend for an incomplete scrapbook collection that I have no personal connection with (even if it were a collection from someone in my hometown there would be a personal connection I could justify).

        I would go beyond the local anthropology deparment, too. I would be ecstatic to get an email with someone looking to donate a scrapbook collection to a researcher.

      • Makes me wonder why they are priced so high. Maybe there are valuable keepsakes in the book? I once met a collector of White House memorabilia who would buy old scrapbooks if they contained White House stuff in them.

        I visited a local historical society this week in Melbourne and they had a number of old scrapbooks. It’s another option for what to do with old ones.

  2. I think we should all ask ourselves, how often do we look at our past facebook posts? Now, how often do we look at our scrapbooks? I may not look at my scrapbooks often, but I do look at them significantly more frequently than my old facebook posts. I really have no interest in looking at my past facebook posts even with their improved interface to do so.

    • This leads me back to your earlier discussion about the perceived coolness of scrapbooking. Everyone does memory keep in their own way, we just have more tangible evidence of it.

  3. I have letters from my parents and they saved the letters I wrote from camp, college, and early adulthood, although I rarely take the time to reread them. My chidlren (now adults) and I do not have that written road map of our past, and it’s a pityl

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