Monday, March 21, 2011

Life in Context: Telling Your Story - A Beautiful Partnership

Conducting Life In Context workshop this fall
Your story helps define the 21st century for future generations. The narrative of your life should describe your personal journey and can be viewed as a piece of a larger puzzle reflecting values, traditions and trends in society. Colleague and certified professional organizer Sue West and I have developed the workshop Life in Context: Telling Your Story to help people think about their places in the world. Through an exploration of personal objects, individuals can define what aspects of their lives are most meaningful to them.  Sue and I encourage people to pursue a greater understanding of the context of their lives to help them focus on what is meaningful, and to collect and preserve stories that are essential to better understanding ourselves, our communities and our culture.

Sue's background in organization has helped us create a strong foundation for our explorations that begin with centering each individual. We begin by focusing on why and how one should tell one's story - to ground oneself, work out problems, and understand what "stuff" is important. My archives and cultural heritage background expands the conversation by relating personal stories to a larger context. We discuss how being an active participant, working to define your legacy now, cna help future generation. Sue and I encourage you to pay more attention to what you are keeping and how it relates to your life story and to a larger community and cultural story.

Sue's Space4U  web page defines a goal of helping you imagine your life "calm, organized and simplified." My mission through ArchivesInfo is to "promote the preservation of history and the building of community memories." Our unique partnership has given us greater insight into the value of what we do for different populaces. Sue has helped me better understand how an archivist can help individuals and I think Sue can better relate her work to larger communities.

Sue and I have been editing a workbook to accompany the workshop. This morning I finished my second pass through and have passed the manuscript back to Sue for further work. The section that is currently the last in the book got my brain churning this morning and I want to share it with you. I have posed three questions to help you think about what is valuable to you. These questions have enabled me to think about cultural heritage collaboration in a more focused way, encouraging a more thorough examination of how an individual can actively create personal documentation that is useful to society. Here are the questions for you to ponder along with me:

1. What do people in the future need to know about you?
It is not necessary or desirable to keep everything. Consider why objects (heirlooms, personal papers, photographs, etc.) were created; how they were used; what evidence they provide; the information they embody; their history, symbolism, and sentimentalism. Focus on what is important to you AND what reflects larger communities and societal functions.

2.What values, traditions, and ideals are not currently represented in your objects or papers and how can you remedy this through storytelling (writing, scrapbooking, crafting, etc.)?

3. How is your community documenting itself or not? Consider intangible culture and lost stories. Many of the stories that we've lost would have been desirable to keep. Properly label your materials and make sure that future generations have the tales documented and well-kept.

A beautiful partnership is one that allows your ideas to grow. Very often, professionals get stuck in their field networking with like-minded individuals and not reaching out to alternate communities. In cultural heritage fields, it is especially important to extend oneself beyond our traditional circles. New perspectives on why people collect and what they collect can help us improve and strengthen our missions. Thank you Sue for helping me strengthen my understanding of building community memories through individual's personal papers. I look forward to a long collaboration.
"Life in Context: Telling Your Story" can help you think about your life in a whole new way. Join the conversation and share your life stories at Life in Context on Facebook. To learn more about the workshop see the Life in Context web page

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