Archive for the ‘building a diary archive’ Category

Is there still interest in a National Diary Archive?

January 13, 2014

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.

Britain’s Great Diary Project

March 24, 2012

Hang your heads in shame, oh ye Americans! For, this time, Britain has won the race.   They have now established an archive to preserve the diaries and journals of the common person.   I know that this archive has been years in the making.  Congratulations and sincere best wishes for our partner across the sea!

Their website is http://www.thegreatdiaryproject.com

It is my goal to maintain ties with their organization and share information.    Since my ancestors were Brits prior to 1645 (messy little Revolutionary War aside) I am hoping to be allowed honorary membership in their  group.

As described below, the creation of an archive  requires these elements:  “enthusiasm” and involvement  from volunteers interested in the project, a physical location to house the archive, acquisition of diaries, non-profit status and financial support.    It is my dream that someday we will have an archive in the US.

I will allow Catherine Robins to describe the formation of their archive in her own words:

The Great Diary Project Blog

Diaries are a valuable social and historical resource; they offer a window to past lives of a huge spectrum of people, building an image of their lives and the developments which fed today’s society. At the moment these too often meet a wasteful end.

The Great Diary Project aims to stop this by establishing a Diary Repository which will house and make available these valuable commodities.

To do this requires a mix of 1. Enthusiasm for the cause from those involved 2. Finding a home for collected diaries 3. Diary collection and  4. Raising public awareness.

My role is to use social media in order to achieve 4. and so encourage 1. 2 and 3. This blog therefore aims to captivate your enthusiasm through a personal account of the project and so urge you to take a look at our website (link),  like us on face book (link) and follow us on twitter (link) and generally spread the word.

First, a disclaimer: This blog tells the story of the project from an entirely personal perspective; were you to speak to others from the project, you would likely find a whole multitude more of opinions and experiences. This is partly because I could not find the words or space to properly articulate each persons story. But also because I believe in the cliché ‘passion inspires passion’; a personal story allows for proper communication of my belief in and experiences of the project.

Herein follows my story of the Great Diary Project.

October 2009; I am inevitably running late for a final year University class. This doesn’t stop me pausing to listen to a radio interview, then manically googling to find who the speaker was (otherwise known as internet stalking a radio interviewee). The reason being that the topic was diaries, and one of the one of the interviewees (Irving Finkel) was exhorting the need for a national Diary Repository to save this fantastic piece of history.

This ideal resonated absolutely with both my scholarly and personal experiences*;

At the time I was working on my dissertation and essentially it would have been a whole lot easier had I been able to read a few contemporary accounts which told me exactly what people at the time thought. I have also kept diaries since childhood and have wondered of the conclusions which might be drawn about myself and my contemporaries were these found in years to come.

I was hooked. I emailed Irving immediately – probably some nonsense along the lines of  ‘wow this is so awesome I totally agree thanks for being on the radio, great, thanks.’- and fortunately for me he replied. Thus I was involved.

Soon after Irving came and delivered a seminar and a lecture on the topic of diaries at the University of Leeds. With him Irving  brought a selection of his favourite pieces; a diary, for instance, from a train spotter who every day logged the trains he saw, until one day entries abruptly stopped. One can only imagine. A mixed crowd of students, lecturers and friends were enthralled; no one left, even when the refreshments ran out and afterwards people crowded round to ask questions and congratulate the cause.

At a later date I met with Irving in the primary diary store – his office. It was wall to wall, ceiling to floor and every other cliché in between which indicates the room was bursting at the seams with books. It was an amazing sight, but clearly not a viable long term solution.

Between this point and now others have done fantastic and dedicated work. Diaries continued to be collected, a cataloguing system was begun, diaries inputted to this during lunch hours and at home, and a home for the collection continued to be sought for.

Now we are pulling together even more to really push the Great Diary Project into the public consciousness. And for this to work we need you. So I reiterate; we need you to tell other people, like us on face book, re post our posts, follow us on twitter and re tweet our tweets.

And please do visit out website for more information www.thegreatdiaryproject.com

All that remains for me to say is thanks for reading and thank you to Cynthia for very kindly affording us a space on her blog.

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* Referring to the work contributing to a History BA as scholarly may be a tad much but it does make for a nice turn of phrase

A Speaking Engagement for the National Diary Archive

February 18, 2012

A Speaking Engagement for the National Diary Archive

On October 10, 2011 I gave a presentation before the “Auntie Stone Questers” of Fort Collins  about the National Diary Archive project.  There were about a dozen women present.  The focus of their group is on the history, collection and preservation of antiques.   They are also involved in the preservation of historic structures.  Each month a  guest speaker is invited to lecture on a particular specialty within this almost unlimited field.

I began my talk with my own 47 year background in journal writing, then a little about my mother’s, great-grandmother’s, and great-great-grandmother’s diaries, ending with my current interest in establishing an archive.  I illustrated what can be learned from studying old diaries by reading from a few I brought with me.   I talked about some famous diarists and published diaries.   My lecture emphasized why I believe old diaries should be preserved in an archive.

I gave this presentation in a local antiques flea market. Afterward I asked the owners if they had any diaries for sale.  Interestingly, they said that in all the years they had been buying antiques they had never run across ANY journals.  All they had was some sort of accounting book from a store.

Several of the women in the group brought family heirloom diaries and ephemera.  We discussed where you might find old diaries…eBay, if nothing else.

I also mentioned the value of saving old letters, a subject I have not yet covered on this blog.  Letters, I think, are more common in a family’s hand-me-down treasures.   Keeping a journal requires ongoing dedication to a sometimes difficult task, a commitment many cannot make.  Now that we are in an age where letter writing is nearly extinct, it is all the more important to save those old letters we find.

A Somewhat Personal Update

August 14, 2011

Earlier this week I wrote: I am sitting on a bench in my private space under the arching branches of the New Mexican elder.    On either side of me – a cat.  One, my own Maine Coon giant, and the other, my neighbor’s cat who has decided he wants to live here in this cat and wildlife sanctuary.  I am almost hidden by the blue salvia, which is joyously alive with honeybees and butterflies.  To the north I see the fading yellow blooms of the goldenraintree which stands as a sentinel before the jungle of the creek area.  The east is dominated by my neighbor’s towering cottonwood rustling in the slight breeze.  To the south I can hear the invasive cacophony of traffic.  Behind me to the west, the chickens are purring.  It is in the 90s.  I am in the shade.  All around me I hear bird song and thunder.  The storm is going to miss us.  Today I have been pondering the mysteries of life and death, as diarists enjoy doing.  I have been pondering my own uncertain future.  How much time do I have? What can be done?  Am I totally nuts to open a bookstore again in this age where “the book” is dying?  And more to the purpose of this blog: how can I use the bookstore to advance the National Diary Archive?

In March I began 33 days of radiation therapy for a liposarcoma.  By May I was jumping right into work on the farm: collecting bee swarms, growing a huge garden, mowing lawns, watering, weeding, overseeing the help that I had to have this past year.  The entire farm is being painted this summer…a red barn at last!  Not to mention all the preliminary negotiations on opening a bookstore.  Have I given up on the archive? No.  Just put it aside for a while.

Here is the current plan:  I am soon to be moving my in-home bookstore of 12,000 books to an actual retail location.  As soon as it is open I will begin regular journal workshops.  I am considering paying a lawyer $750 to create a non-profit organization.  I will search for a volunteer staff and archivists.  I will then solicit donations and attempt to build this organization.  “If you build it they will come.”

 

 

 

What You Can Do to Support a National Diary Archive

April 6, 2011

“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.

Progress on National Diary Archive

April 2, 2011

No blogs for some time and not even a single entry in my private journal!  Life has grabbed me by the throat and not let go since my last post.  But there is progress to report:

After my first rejection by the Fort Collins Public Library, I decided to try again.  I was attempting to reserve a room at the library for a free in-depth journal workshop followed by a presentation on the National Diary Archive.  I was told that only non-profit organizations or programs supporting the general purpose of the library could use the rooms.  It seemed to me that journal writing and a diary archive fit that description.  (The archive has not yet become a legal non-profit, although that is the intention.)

On my second try I gently complained that the last two lectures I attended at the library appeared to be by private citizens making a profit on their event.   One was a talk by a local author.  A local bookstore was clearly making money selling her books at a table in the back.  The second lecture was about blogging.  The blogger would not answer my question, instead she handed me her business card and said she was available for consulting for a fee.

I walked a fine line in presenting my case.    I could feel that I was close to stepping on toes but the initial resistance at the front desk gave way and I made it to the next level, and from there, on to the top administrator, who actually was interested, even excited, by the idea of an archive.

So, on April 10th I will be giving my first presentation in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Although my city is proud of being consistently named one of the top ten cities in America, I remember the days when it would not suffer a coffee shop to live. The attitude was that a coffee house was a place akin to an opium den.  We’ve come a long way, baby, as now there’s a coffee house or petit drive-through dispensary on every corner…and for other things as well.

Since 1983, Fort Collins has killed 14 used or new bookstores, including mine. And although the main newspaper has no interest in a story about the archive, nor the higher quality “local news” paper which specializes in human interest stories, I still have a modicum of hope that this idea might someday thrive here.   Perfect climate, low threat of natural disaster, easy access, and situated in the heart of the country.

Truly, I haven’t tapped but the surface of the possibilities here.  The support may need to be on the national level but the team for the non-profit needs to be local.  Already I have found someone who has taught journal writing for many years.  I am searching for others wishing to get involved.


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