We need a national diary archive!

 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 bluemoon47@qwestoffice.net

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3 Responses to “We need a national diary archive!”

  1. Irving Finkel Says:

    Brilliant idea!
    I am trying to do the same here…
    Let’s hold hands.
    Irving

  2. Karen Says:

    Is there yet a National Diary Archive? How could I donate my diary to it in my Will?

    • cynthiamanuel Says:

      March 24, 2011
      Karen,
      There is not yet a National Diary Archive but I am working on it. I have been unable so far to interest any local paper in doing a story on it. At first the library told me I could not use their meeting room to give a free workshop on journal writing and a talk on my plans to build a National Diary Archive here in Fort Collins, Colorado. You have to be a non-profit organization to use the room, they said. I pointed out that the last two lectures I attended there seemed to be very profitable for the people involved. And I explained that journal writing and diary archiving really did have something in common with libraries. I was persistent and “went to the top” to get permission to use the lecture room. So I am pleased to announce that I will be giving my first presentation on the archive on April 10th in the hopes of involving other people in it’s creation.

      Hang on to your diaries for now. I would suggest writing something in your will as to your wish to donate them to an archive. Perhaps ask a lawyer if they could be held somewhere until an archive is developed. I am planning to officially/legally donate my diaries, those of my family, and those I have collected to this archive, which I want to set up as a non-profit organization before the end of this year.
      Please keep in touch,
      Cynthia

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