The Funny Thing About Memory

Memories by Natalie Parker

I took one more thing from the 2015 Personal Digital Archiving Conference and it’s so relevant to our discussions here about scrapbooking that it deserves it’s own post.

It’s all about memory.

Professor Lori Kendall delivered the final talk of the conference.  I was particularly interested in what she had to say because her words last year where inspired my thesis topic.  I can’t possibly do her talk justice, but I’ll summarize what is really relevant.

Kendall has spent the last year studying memory from a variety of disciplines, not just her own field of personal archiving.  She found commonalities.

We think of memory as a fixed thing when it isn’t.  She describes memory more as rewriting something in your head than retrieving something.  We selectively remember things and forget others, often we may not be aware we are doing it.  Each time we remember something we are forgetting other things.

She also found that neuroscientists and historians agree that memory is very closely tied with identity creation.  Memories have more to do with creating your current identity than the past.

What does this have to do with us scrapookers, the memory keepers?  We can’t remember everything.  We often feel guilty or feel we have to justify the choices we make about what we choose to document and what we leave out.

Should you document your every day life,  your every week, your every day?  Or should you document just big events?  If you choose one does it mean what you are creating isn’t a real reflection of what actually happened?

What I took from the talk is that it simply doesn’t matter.  Every memory is a process of creation and destruction.  We can’t remember everything and shouldn’t attempt to.  Kendall notes that everything saved is something else lost.

We need to think about the story we want to tell and who we want to share it with.  That should be our guide.

2 thoughts on “The Funny Thing About Memory

  1. I was just talking about a similar idea with my husband the other day. I went back into my photo catalog to check a date for a scrapbook layout I had just completed. I’d had the photos printed for the layout for a long time (really long time), and so when I went back to my full photo library, I saw other images from that day that I hadn’t chosen to print. It was a vivid reminder of how much “editing” we do just to fit a bit of the story onto a page. I’m glad for both the fact that I can edit down to the essence of the story that I want to tell, and also for the fact that I am able to keep the other details in the photos (and metadata, once I started adding captions) that I have squirreled away on my hard drive.

    • I’m glad I have the rest on my hard drive too, but I think this will help me not agonize so much over the choice of what to include!

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