Tuesday I went with my Mom and my uncles and aunts to start cleaning out my deceased Grandmother's house. We only managed to get through most of her bathroom and bedroom closet because Grandma, bless her heart, was a packrat. I started a list of all the amazing stuff we found; it's below. It was an incredible experience going through that stuff with my mom and aunts. (My uncles retreated to the kitchen when we found the first hatbox.) Every time we picked something up, it was, "Oh I remember that thing; she wore it everywhere" and "Can you believe she kept this?" or "Oooh! Try it on!" We were separating things into keep, sell/donate, and trash piles.
I was absolutely gleeful when I found the box with all of my grandparents' love letters in it: every single one, all in their original envelopes lined up in neat rows, the handwriting still crisp and easy to read. There must have been hundreds. Some were before they were engaged, some during the engagement, when they lived in different states, some as newlyweds during the war. Have I mentioned I'm an English major? Original texts, original manuscripts are like our crack.
Then I started thinking, where is my love letter archive? I definitely have a file where I keep all the emails from the Significant Other, but is there something extra evoked by handling the paper or running your fingers over the ink? The thing is, it's not like the archive of my life will be ncessarily be digitized, because a lot of it is already digital. That's where a lot of my history is. Of course, there is so much to be said for digital archives. We will be forced to throw away a lot of my Grandma's physical objects simply because we can't handle all the stuff. We don't have the space. Digital archives don't take physical space (although they do take up hard drive space), so it's possible that more history could more easily be saved or organized by family members who want to keep it.
( There is a romance or a mystique to the physical thing. Here follow ponder-y thoughts and a list of things we found in Grandma's closet. )