At the Personal Digital Archiving Conference, Again

Personal Digital Archiving Conference at NYU by Natalie Parker

On my way home from my month in London, I put on my grad student hat and stopped in New York City to attend the 2015 Personal Digital Archiving Conference.

This is the second year I’ve attended (see my thoughts from last year here).  In addition to being a huge boost to listen to people studying the same issues I am, I always hear so many good thoughts applicable to scrapbookers.

I’ve gone over my notes and picked out some interesting things.

Big Thoughts

These are paraphrased from my notes and are not actual quotes.

Don Perry: We need to be considering the archives we are creating now as things people in the future will look to to understand the past.  The impetus for taking the photograph today is the same as in 1840 when someone sat in a studio to make a daguerreotype. It is to capture something.  The photograph is a distilled version of one persons heart.

Jessica Bushey: The smartphone is the preferred device for taking photos. The function of photos is shifting from a snapshot to remember or to create a permanent record to a digital trace that communicates an experience that is quickly consumed and forgotten.

While on the surface it seems like Perry and Bushey disagree with each other, I don’t think that’s the case.  While I do think that more of today’s photos are ephemeral (do you want the picture I took of a price tag at Target?), I think at least some of the photos we take today will fit Perry’s definition as we age.

Julie Swierczek: There is too much emphasis on big data and not enough small scale description.  It doesn’t matter how many millions of women describe themselves as mothers on Facebook.  But, if you talked to a handful of mothers, that would be interesting.  Don’t forget the personal.

Swierczek’s comments about small scale really resonated with me.  Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of my scrapbooking when I’m just one person in this huge world.  She reminded me that stories on a small scale matter.

Other Bits

Todd Wemmer emphasized audio in memory keeping.  He played a clip of his kids playing at the beach that he said he wouldn’t trade for all his photos.  They weren’t even my kids and I was very moved by the experience of listening to them.  Listen to clips he’s collected of all sorts of people here.  It’s amazing to hear people tell their stories.

Sarah Severson showed us how she used Picasa and WordPress to create an online family archive.  I was totally blown away and need to get on this!

Joel Neville Anderson shared the Photohoku project with us, an effort to provide photographs and albums to people who lost everything in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.  The idea is to help people restart their family albums.

So much good stuff here!

In addition to being a scrapbooker and a traveler, I’m also studying to be an archivist.  I’m currently researching what regular people do with their photos.  To read more of my posts about archives for scrapbookers, click here.


Archives Up!

You guys. I’m really excited to tell you that I’ve finished coding my scrapbook archives!  I know, that doesn’t seem much like news but I’m stoked.

I’ve overhauled everything to make it really easy to see all of my completed albums and every layout in each.  Plus, you can click on any layout to see the blog post about it.  Annnd I learned how to make GIFs so can see the whole album together in action.

Click “Scrapbooks” at the top of this page or click here if you are reading from a reader or email.

I hope you like it!  I’m planning more archive pages for the rest of my content so stay tuned!

What Do You Do with Your Photos?

Thesis Notebook and Notes by Natalie Parker

Three years ago, I became a graduate student.

I’m nearing the end of my journey to become an archivist / information scientist and I’ve shared small bits with you along the way.  I’m finished with my coursework and am working at how to top it all off so they’ll give me a diploma.  At this moment, I’m working on a research proposal.

Should I Write a Thesis?

A thesis isn’t mandatory to finish my program, but I found a topic that I’m really curious about.  I never ever ever thought I would be interested in original research.

A thesis is a lot of work.  That work would take me from this space more often and prevent me from doing other projects and things in my personal life.  Being constrained by school these last three years really makes me grumpy, no matter what I’m studying.  It hasn’t been easy — I am still working full time, pursuing my creative passions, and committing to writing here.

On the other hand, I am really interested in this topic and I feel like not pursuing it would be shortchanging myself.  Who knows where it will lead?  Not doing something because it’s hard isn’t the person I want to be.

What’s the Topic?

I’ve been studying personal digital archiving.  I want to study what people want to do with their photos.  I’ve done enough research to know that people are losing their digital belongings all the time.  But, research is starting to show that no matter how much we value these digital belongings and how much we know that we need to get organized so nothing gets lost, we aren’t doing anything about it.  In other words, you can’t shame someone into taking care of their stuff.  Saving everything doesn’t work either (at least not with current software).  I wonder if we can take a different approach and figure out what people want and taking that information to make the situation better.

What Does this Have to Do With the Blog?

I’ve been so amazed how everything I learn at school relates back to memory keeping.  You can even say my degree is in memory keeping.  I’ve shared what acid free paper means, the deterioration of paper, how the value of our memories is directly related to their accessibility, and more.  I’m going to keep taking bits and pieces and sharing them with you when I think they can help us learn how to be better memory keepers.

Plus, I’m trying to inject a little more of myself in this space.  I usually don’t talk about decisions until after they are made.  But, I figured I’d tell the internet so it would keep me honest when I decide.

Click here to read all of my archives-related posts.

At the Personal Digital Archiving Conference

Photos by Natalie Parker

I wear all sorts of hats.  Last week I put on my Master’s student hat and headed to Indianapolis to learn more about Personal Digital Archiving.

Why a conference on personal digital archiving?  There has been a lot of study about institutions (think universities, companies) taking care of their digital assets.  Not a lot of attention has been paid to how regular people manage their own digital assets.  Your digital assets are photographs, email, blog posts, bank statements, text messages, tweets, facebook records, videos, you name it!

As a scrapbooker studying archives, this subject is the perfect intersection for me!  The area of study is new and people at the conference were talking about how to define and address the problem.  What are people doing about their digital assets?  Do they care more about some digital items than others?  How to we let people know about resources that can help?

I met all sorts of great people!  I ran into another Master’s student/scrapbooker and we chatted about scrapbooking and her project to scan old family photos.  I chatted with a professor and someone from the Library of Congress about current trends in memory keeping — this included explaining what Project Life is and showing them examples of pocket page scrapbooking on my tablet.  I didn’t go to the conference thinking I was going to talk so much about scrapbooking, but the subjects are very intertwined.  Stephanie‘s dissertation on scrapbooking also came up.

What does all this mean?  I’m not sure yet but this is only the beginning for me on this subject.  I want to make sure I get out the word on some great resources I learned about that are geared toward regular people.

Do you have any questions on this subject?  Did you know people studied this?  Do you feel like you’ve got a handle on your digital belongings (it’s okay to say no, research shows most people don’t)?

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.

Fun With Archival Theory

Scholarly Articles by Natalie ParkerI’m knee deep in readings for a summer class (learning even more about archives).  I’m always amused when I find bits of reading that are really applicable to scrapbooking.  Or is it that I have memory keeping on the brain all the time?

Here are some bits from my readings.  They relate to archival theory, but I think you will find them very pertinent:

… biography can only be captured — brought alive in the present — through placing its ‘single subject’ in relationship to other people.  (McKemmish, 2005 – paraphrasing biographer Richard Holmes)

What do I take from that?  Context matters.  The author was making an argument that records “live” and constantly take on more value as new records are placed with them.  The more context, the richer a record is.  You will always see me arguing for more context in scrapbooks.

Human beings are the sum of their memories.  The nature of their interaction with other humans, indeed their very identity, is determined by their memories. (Cunningham, 2005)

We tell stories for ourselves — to help keep us alive. (McKemmish, 2005 – quoting Thomas King)

I thought these bits were interesting because I always wonder sometimes why I’m compelled to scrapbook.  The truth is that we all keep memories in some form or another as part of the human experience.  I just choose to use this method.


Adrian Cunningham, “Archival Institutions,´in Sue McKemmish, Michael Piggott, Barbara Reed, and Frank Upward. Archives: Recordkeeping in Society. Wagga Wagga, N.S.W.: Charles Sturt University, 2005
Sue McKemmish, “Traces: Document, Record, Archive, Archives.” In Sue McKemmish,
Michael Piggott, Barbara Reed, and Frank Upward. Archives: Recordkeeping in Society. Wagga Wagga, N.S.W.: Charles Sturt University, 2005.
Sue McKemmish, Shannon Faulkhead, and Lynette Russell. “Distrust in the Archives:
Reconciling Records.” Archival Science 11, no. 3/4 (2011): 211-239.