Just wondering if there are people out there who would like to help start this archive? Particularly someone living near Fort Collins, Colorado. We need to get the ball rolling, I won’t be around forever. Donations of diaries and dollars would be helpful. For now, my garage could be used for long term storage. I may have space within my bookstore IF it ever reopens. Please contact me at eclecticreaderbooks.com if you are interested.
Archive for the ‘American Diary Archive’ Category
“What can those of us near you in heart but not geographically do to help?”
One of my readers asked this question and I will try to answer it, based on where the archive is now in its formation progress.
First of all, tell your friends about it, especially those who keep diaries. You never know what connections might be made. If you teach journal writing, inform your students that there may soon be an archive. If you keep an on-line diary you could ” blog” about the archive. Everyone who keeps a journal should think about what will eventually become of them.
Assuming you are a diarist, stipulate in your will that you would like your diaries/journals to be donated to an archive upon your death and include at what point they may be open to the public. If you wish to protect friends and family who are still living from reading what you truly felt about them, then consider stating how many years the diaries should remain closed. You might allow staff of the archive to prepare them by transcribing them or digitizing. You may want them to be available only to those visiting the actual location of the archive and for research purposes. When an archive is opened in the United States, you could specify that archive in your will.
If you keep a diary/journal, give some thought to organizing and preserving it. (See my post on that subject: “Now Where Did I Put That?”) At the very least, put your name in each volume and where it was written. If possible, create an index for each volume, each year, and the sum total of your work. This will also make it easier for you to go back and re-read, which is an important benefit of this genre… an opportunity for self-insight and depth.
For all who would like to see a national diary archive I would recommend collecting diaries. It is an expensive hobby so you might think of asking for “handwritten diaries” as presents, as I did. Becoming the caretaker and conservationist of someone else’s work gives you a sense of the importance of your own writing. It might also show you how to improve your own writing.
If you begin your own collection of handwritten diaries you could transcribe them and put them online, or allow an archive to put them online. The actual diaries could be kept by you and donated upon your death.
If you live near this archive of the future (Fort Collins, Colorado?) you are more than welcome to volunteer your time.
And, if none of the above works for you, you could always donate money. So, keep watching our progress.
Ok. Here it comes, a whine. In my pursuit of the goal of setting up a national diary archive these stumbling blocks have emerged:
First of all, there is the total disinterest of the two local newspapers in publicizing the idea of this project. Apparently they do not recognize any value in such an archive. Do you suppose they archive all the blatherings of their pitiful press? What exactly is the repugnance for this form of writing? With funding, I can envision this archive growing into a magnificent jewel-in-the-crown of this city at the middle of the country, already touted as one of the best places to live in America.
Is their lack of enthusiasm merely the backlash from their intuition that the printed word is dying…that their own jobs are disappearing into the (I like this word!) viral world?
I, too, understand that the handwritten private journal is becoming extinct. Which is precisely why we must preserve the last of this species.
Now here is the catch-22: To create such an archive you must first conjure up interest before you are entitled to financial or social support. No interest=no non-profit organization. On the other hand, I am told that unless I establish it as a non-profit there will be no interest. You need a few courageous souls who will be the board of directors and who love to write all of that gobbledygook and the tedious reports that are required (so that you don’t have to) to prove you are a viable entity.
The rules for setting up a non-profit give me the same sense of dread as going to the dentist. Perhaps a lawyer…
Pursuing the line of materializing some support, I called the library last week to set up a room for a free journal writing workshop and presentation on creating the diary archive. Guess what? You cannot schedule a room unless you are a non-profit organization!
I distinctly remember two events I attended recently at the library. One was a free chat by a local author. In the back of the room a local bookstore was selling her books like hotcakes. Wasn’t there a profit in there somewhere? The second event was a lecture on how to start a blog (the journal writing extinction committee). The presenter would not answer my question at the end. Instead, she handed me a business card. This is also a non-profit?
I am sitting back on my haunches trying to figure out strategy. I am not a political princess. I am not a rah-rah fund raiser. I am not young and pretty. I am Boxer, the workhorse, from Animal Farm. Hmm. So how do I do this?
I haven’t given up. I haven’t quit. I can find another room to rent for a lecture. I can pay for advertising. I can hire a kid one third my age to teach me more about how to drive a blog. This is just a flesh wound.
All y’all out there can send your moral and financial support. And ideas.
Oh…and I have one last complaint. It’s about the weather. I called the weatherclown this morning and he said it was going to be a sunny, 50s day. Trickster. It is 39 and totally overcast. Feels like snow. My sister-who-is-always-right says the weather forecasters are always right. Have I ever told you about my sister?
GREEN WITH ENVY
The local paper was not interested in printing my article on building a National Diary Archive in this city. However, they have run feature stories about the still wildly popular hobby and lucrative business of scrapbooking.
Counter-intuitively, a local store that sells blank books for journal writing would not hang a flyer about my journal workshop. I have canceled journal workshops for lack of interest. I have felt the breeze of doors slamming in my face regarding the idea of creating a National Diary Archive to preserve the thoughts and feelings and stories of the common person.
Meanwhile, on April 14, Doug Gross of CNN wrote: “Twitter and the Library of Congress announced Wednesday that every public tweet posted since Twitter started in 2006 will be archived digitally by the federal library.” Matt Raymond, the Library of Congress communications director, is seemingly ecstatic by what might be learned through this “wealth of data.” And Twitter itself gushes: “It’s very exciting that tweets are becoming a part of history.”
Jealousy washes over me. Save imbecilic tweets and not the mindful outpourings of self-discovery, not the handwritten records of personal history, work, travels or relationships? I wonder what wealth of information could be gleaned by saving all of our phone calls.
How about if we save our “to do” lists? Ah well, someone has already done that in the journaling world. She collected her lists. I suppose there was a revelation there, if nothing else it would have been that we spend a lot of time on things that are, in the end, not very important after all. Given one hundred years our lists might be a fascinating thing…if you needed background for a novel.
So, if tweets are valuable as part of the history of social culture, why not journals? Or is it a matter of the ease with which tweets have been collected as opposed to the money and tenacious work of collecting handwritten journals?
What to call the new baby?
National Diary Archive, American Diary Archive, National Diary Repository, American Diary Repository, Diary Archive of America, National Diary Library, American Diary Library, etc. , etc., etc. A veritable mad confusion of choices.
“Journal, ” a term I prefer, is too often confused with newspapers and magazines (i.e. American Journal Archive).
I like to tell people I keep a “journal” and not a “diary” as I think “journal” conveys something more serious, something with depth and reflection beyond a smattering of daily notes. Truthfully, not all my entries have that much depth.
I’ll be blunt about using the word “repository” in the name. It reminds me of “suppository,” an altogether repugnant association in my mind.
Someone suggested going with “American” instead of “National,” to distinguish it from all the other diary archives in the world. Does anyone actually know of any other official diary archives?
Any name suggestions are welcome. Voting is encouraged. Please don’t do the American thing…you know, what we are doing with baby names…Amairikan Dieree Arkive.
In an age where blogging is de rigueur for the young, and we baby boomers are approaching the end of the road, we are in danger of losing an important part of our cultural history: the diaries, journals and letters of the common person.
As I write this I imagine hundreds of such treasures are being sent off to ignoble graves in the landfills of America, flung in the trash by unappreciative or overwhelmed heirs exclaiming: “look at all this junk Mom and Dad collected!”
Many people before me have envisioned a National Diary Archive – a safekeeping place where all those “common” folk (those of us who are not famous) might bequeath their diaries for the benefit or entertainment of unknown readers and researchers of the future. Who, how and where are the major challenges.
Besides acquiring funding it will be necessary to find a location safe from natural disasters, accessible to the public, and suitable for long-term storage. The archive must be capable of storing the diaries unopened until all persons in them are dead and will no longer be hurt by the diarist’s blunt honesty. There will be a need for someone to work on cataloging and referencing these diaries for research when released to the public and possibly publishing them on the internet.
As you might have guessed, I have a personal connection with this cause and do shamelessly present myself for the position. I began writing a diary in 1964 and have kept one (not always religiously) ever since then. The more than 50 volumes comprise a large part of my life’s work. No, they are not great literature. Neither do I want them to end up as compost.
I have arbitrarily chosen Fort Collins, Colorado, my hometown, as the ideal location in the heart of the country, for a national diary archive. We seem basically disaster free and have a dry climate.
I believe there is enough interest in old diaries and journals to support establishing an archive. Recently on eBay a policeman’s log book from 1941 and a teen-ager’s diary from 1905 sold for over $50 each. A schoolteacher’s uniquely “emotional” journal from 1872 – describing whippings and discipline problems – sold for $378. One thing to remember is that what is commonplace today will in a hundred years or less become intriguingly, charmingly vintage.
Ultimately, we cannot imagine what use these diaries and letters will have in a distant time or what impact the small tidbits or deeply examined lives will have on future generations. But if we don’t save them now, we will never know.
For comments, ideas, or donations of diaries and journals, contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org