I’ve been keeping the letters I receive for as long as I can remember, but I haven’t got room in my new study for even the most recent missives. Instead, the archive concertina file and the folders containing just the last few years now all reside in the loft – not very easy to get at and taking up space. So, I’ve decided it’s time to digitise. I had already been keeping Word versions of particularly informative emails in folders on my PC – a folder for each person and named First Name and Surname (on the basis that I’m more likely to remember most first names rather than most surnames). The actual files are titled “Date – Brief description of the information contained”. The digitised letters will go into these folders. A few days ago I started on the ‘A’s and having got through five names have already discovered the following:
- The filenames need to include the names of the people concerned, i.e. “Date – First name and Surname – Brief description of the information contained”, to ensure that each file is clearly identified.
- For people I’ve lost touch with or who have died (all of the first five sets of letters I’ve dealt with have fallen into one of these two categories), I decided to scan all of their letters into a single PDF File and to store them in a special folder called “XX – Lost touch or dead”. The filenames of the PDFs are “First name and second name – XX – relationship with me, start and end dates of the letters contained”.
- The first set of letters I dealt with were some 45 years old and I’d forgotten the surname. Luckily I was eventually able to find it in my digitised memento files (so they do have a use!). However, it’s clearly possible that, especially for old items, some salient information could be lost forever.
- Assembling these collections of letters and looking through them brought back many memories and prompted thoughts about the relationship I had with the individuals. In the case of one “auntie” (a lifetime friend of my mother) who I corresponded with for about 30 years (mostly through Christmas cards), I started to regret never having made the effort to meet her in person.
- Having scanned the letters and then seeing them all collected together in a PDF document, really made me think of the value of friendships and of how little time we have on the planet. None of us really know why we are here, nor how the universe came about, and as individuals we have such a relatively short existence. I pondered that having friends who we can share our thoughts in the midst of our uncertain brief time on earth, is precious indeed.
- I tore up the physical letters after I had digitised them, and , of course, felt a wrench as I did so. Undoubtedly the physical objects possess characteristics of touch, smell and presence that won’t be reproduced in the digital version. However, the digital versions are undoubtedly much more accessible. How much I’ll refer to them in the future, and what other uses I may put them to, are interesting questions.