I had been presenting a workshop for many years on preserving your family materials. I invited people to bring their personal items so I could tell them how to care for them. I kept the groups to twenty and under so that I would have the opportunity to look and talk about everyone's materials to give advice. It was (and still is) a fun presentation. But soon, people began asking me if I could accommodate larger groups. I needed to redesign the class, so I started seeking items with preservation issues at antique shops to use for demonstration materials. (If you are a regular reader of this blog, you now know how "More Finds at the Local Antique Shop" got started.)
When I began thinking about writing my book "The Unofficial Family Archivist," I started to learn to be a storyteller. My own childhood materials from the 1970s were perfect samples of imperfection. My yellowing Polaroids and browning "magnetic" albums would be great for demonstration. I began searching my collections for more materials for demonstration. Memories came flooding back. I began to incorporate my materials into my writing and my public talks. I also began telling stories behind the materials and most surprisingly to me, people have responded enthusiastically.
|Stanscopes and slide viewer from my family collection|
Erica wrote back enthusiastically and I hope that she doesn't mind me sharing what she said here. "Oh, I love that story! Have you done a blog post on it? Totally blog-worthy! A great, heart-warming story with a little surprise: the photo of your dad as a little boy. Very cool...again, it's the story about the real person that makes the object so special."
Wow! My story - Worthy of telling - People want to hear. I am reminded of that once again.
In "The Unofficial Family Archivist" I made a point to tell my personal family stories to show how my family memories and archives are not so very much unlike yours. And when incorporating those stories into presentations, I see eyes shining in my audience and nods of recognition. Each of us has stories that make up a greater community story. Each story I have in my head has roots in some community with other people who experience similar things. The little surprise at the end is how each story is so personal. An object is an object until you figure out its purpose and then tell its history through a community lens. If you can put a personal lens on it, that makes it all the more special.
I have had two presentations each week this month. The presentation topic focuses on two chapters of "The Unofficial Family Archivist" and relates to personal narrative and preservation of personal papers. In working and reworking the presentation, I've had many memories flood back as I try to find personal stories to shed light on points I am trying to make. I am going to leave you today with a personal story I remembered the other day and incorporated into a presentation a couple of nights ago. The point of the story is to tell people that sometimes important things about our lives do not automatically get recorded. We automatically grab a camera for special occasions, but we usually need to think more about things that happen to us on non-"special" occasions. Some of the things we do every day may be worth recording to shed light on our own personal narrative or our own family history, and to show what it is like to live in this time and place. Grab the video camera to document a morning routine; write in a journal about the mundane events of your day; make a list of things that struck your fancy as you went about your business....here is one of those stories in my life.
|There will never be another pizza like|
mom's. This is not mom's pizza. This is from
This was every day life in my house. This story tells a lot about how I lived and what my mother valued. Perhaps it's a "heartwarming story with a little surprise." My eighties teen years were a holdover from a time that was quickly passing. My family, like yours, is a microcosm of life as we know it now, but we may soon forget. I have no pictures. I have only this blog post about mom's pizza. (I hope it wasn't too wordy.)