It’s making me think, as I contemplate a move from the only apartment in NYC that I’ve lived in, what to do with my years of collected ephemera, mementos and such?  Postcards, letters, playbills, art exhibit pamphlets, political pamphlets, recipes clipped from newspapers, concert and other ticket stubs, stamps, maps, all sorts of things picked up while traveling… the list could go on and on.  And what about all the paper in my files?  Crew lists from movies I’ve worked on, tax records, w2s, medical records, union health and pension records….boxes and files of paper.   I took several enormous bags to a free shredding event a while ago but there are still way too many pieces of paper with too much personal info on them for me to just recycle.  (And do I really want to buy a giant shredder to take care of it?)

And photographs.  Boxes and boxes of photos, b/w contact sheets, slides, years of images.  And years of datebooks and half-filled journals that I would be horrified if anyone read but haven’t been able to just throw out (or recycle!)  Not to mention all the books, New Yorkers, readings from classes…….

I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all!

Recently, going through my Grandfather’s apartment  (he died last year at 104),  I came across his first passport, the documentation from the family name change,  ship tickets,  letters written to him from my father as a boy, cards to him from family members  (including postcards from me from all over the world), and boxes of photos as well as some truly amazing kodachrome stereo slides from the 50’s.  There is something visceral about paper; seeing the so familiar handwriting of someone who is no longer living brings them back in a way a digital scan can’t quite do.  My father died 11 years ago and I am happy to come across something he wrote in his distinctive left-handed cursive;  old letters, clippings that he sent with an FYI,  notes on  recipes saved in cookbooks which I find now when I cook in my mother’s kitchen.







  yeongran wrote @

I once volunteered at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Park Slope, Brooklyn and organized a woman’s box. (They have a ‘special collection’ under donor’s name) The woman used to work at a record company named olivia record and she donated materials like letters, financial records, news articles of their musicians, photos, and so on. I thought it will be very helpful to look into her box, if someone wants to write about the history of feminist movement and women’s music.

I mean, in many cases, personal paper documents can really help generating a sort of history with rich visual/tangible images. it will be really interesting, for example, if you make a documentary film about your grandfather and family. :) I have watched many documentary films telling the history through their family history and I liked them a lot.

  jen rhee wrote @

My grandfather, who I was very close with, also recently passed away, so I can relate quite a lot with this thread. Just a couple of weeks ago, my family gathered to look through his old photos. Like Jenny says, that there’s something so affecting and poignant about finding an old photograph and holding it in your hands… especially in a context of preserving someone’s memory. But for me, there was also a weird panic that accompanied the experience. After seeing the photos, I couldn’t wait to get the photos home, scan them, and send them to all my family members. For some reason, it felt really important that we digitize them immediately… somehow it made the images simultaneously less tangible and more lasting.

I think there might also be something to be said here about how paper and digital forms create different meanings of authenticity and the “copy,” too…

  jessica wrote @

These are VERY good points. In contrast to what we were discussing last week about the digital as more fleeting, part of a waste stream of endless information flows that is opposed to the tangibility of paper, you are each pointing to the value of the digital as a platform for preserving *and expanding* an experience that originates with paper — giving it more public voice, making it more broadly accessible, and even narrativizing it in a different way as in the case with the doc film suggestion. (It’s Walter Benjamin in the age of digital reproduction…)


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