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Monday, March 12, 2012

To Keep or not to Keep?

Reading the paper at lunchtime as I usually do, I stumbled across this article which points out the difficulties future archivists will have when faced with our current trend of communicating by technology rather than our past history of either letter or email writing.

I find it an interesting dilemma. How does one preserve the text messages, tweets and chats that now form much of our daily communication? History has proven that, in some cases, letters were not only a means of transmitting messages but also a permanent tactile memory to be felt and relished and stored. Email messages, while they can be printed and physically handled; lose something in their lack of personal handwriting and uniform paper. But what of text messages, tweets and chats? It is slightly difficult to feel them, relish them or handle them!

Of course one of the issues with technological communication methods is that they are often devoid of emotion. Many years ago my then boyfriend was overseas for a lengthy time and we communicated by email. Often he would misread the meaning of my emails and would have to call me to clear up any misunderstanding. The abbreviations and “eslang” used nowadays also sometimes cause confusion and one can only wonder how they will read in the next century!

Historians and archivists often rely on people other than the one they are documenting to provide the letters and articles of interest. In the above article it is the family of Malcolm Fraser who preserve the letter he wrote in 1940 as a 10 year old boy at boarding school. In modern times how many of us would keep an email, text message, tweet or chat that long? Should today’s writers make an effort to save all of their correspondence just in case they are one day famous? One would have to buy several hard drives for storage!

How are you keeping your technological communications? Or are you keeping them?


  1. No. I go through my emails and texts and delete about once a month. BUT you bring about an excellent point.

    1. I do the same, although I have kept a few emails. It's interesting though - if we ever do become famous, how will our lives be studied and archived?

  2. I admit to keeping certain ones, especially the ones from all of my lovers past and present. Any other emails are cleared out on a regular basis.

    1. Leah - how fabulous! What a book your emails from lovers would make...


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