Today marks the first day I have begun to digitize my journals and additional special collection items such as letters and agenda books for my living archive. The hard copy files will be shared with museums and university libraries. The total collection spans from ages 16 - 32. Lots to digest! I am taking it one day and one book at a time.
My aim in blogging about my experience is so that the struggles and successes in archiving oneself by one’s own hands can be shared in real time with the world. It is a way to give back to future generations of scholars, poets, writers, historians or people simply interested in people. My hope is that it inspires youth to think differently about their diaries, journals, letters, doodles or notes in book margins--to think about how in the present they add value to future. What may have been considered of only singular interest, written behind closed doors or on beds late at night that then gets tucked under pillows, is something that has immense societal value. For, on these fragments is how history is made, on what it is based: Lived and documented experiences.
How to name what I am doing? I am playing with calling this process of inviting the public to look on into the activity of me archiving myself while still alive in both digital and hard copy form as a live communal archiving (LCAverb). There are many problems with terming this unyielding process as such. However, I am going to place a stake down so that the term can be interrogated until there is either greater clarity or more widespread agreement on what we want to capture uniquely about what is happening here.
I would also want to use the term to help me think more broadly about living communal archives (LCAnoun). Would “living communal archive” include storytellers who tour communities and schools sharing forgotten narratives? Yes. Would “living communal archive” include all of the boxes of journals and manuscript files that I’ve carried with me from place to place? Maybe, maybe not, given that it was not available to public. However, if the data was “available” somehow within me and I engaged with excerpts from those boxes in conversation with friends and colleagues, then by extension they could be considered part of a living communal archive. Could a "living communal archive" include the body of a tree you pass by on the way to work as it marks its center core with rings, denoting the rainfall that year? Yes. I welcome disagreement on the matter. Yet and still, presenting this living
While talking fantastically about these ideas, I also want this blog to share the practical procedural steps I am talking along the way. It will be a bumpy ride and involve many failing-fast moments. For example, after using the scanner at my campus library today to scan in the BMC_JourBook_08/27/2011-07/30/2013 for 45 minutes, I got a sending error. The file of over 100 pages was too large! So, this is why BMC_JourBook is in 20-page sections. I also had to reduce the settings to grayscale and 200dpi. (Fyi: jourbook is the name I am giving the items in my special collection that are journal rather than agenda books or poetry manuscripts in order to make reference less ambiguous.)
Hats off to those dedicated librarians and staffers who do the hard work each day of scanning and archiving and coming up with processes that make the process smoother so that we have access to storehouses of knowledge previously inaccessible to widespread audiences.