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Records connect people | 'Evidence of us'

Records Connect People | Evidence of Us | McKemmish

My musings on the series so far, and also my thoughts on:

McKemmish, Sue. ‘Evidence of Me’. The Australian Library Journal 45, no. 3 (January 1996): 174–87.

So far in this series, I have written about how important life stories are for a person's well-being. Particularly when a person is suffering a loss or a separation from a family member.

We have thought about how people who create digital homes for themselves. When you travel around a lot, your relationships and personal possessions shift into the digital world.

This week, I have been reading an article by Sue McKemmish. She writes about how keeping records is a way of bearing witness to our lives. Like Etherton, she writes about how keeping a journal is a form of self-therapy. This is because creating a coherent life story helps us sustain our sense of self.

McKemmish goes further. She says that caring for personal collections is more than just creating "evidence of me". When you look at small personal collections as part of the wider world, they all come together to create "evidence of us". She argues that constellations of personal collections create a picture of 'society'.

I like this way of looking at it. Particularly if you scale it back down to smaller communities or groups.

I think the act of creating and curating records is a way of affirming your relationship with others.

How's this for an example? Say your sister begins to bring a new girlfriend along to important occasions. And say you begin to include her in your family photo album of those events. Isn't this a subtle gesture of acceptance and assimilation into your family?

McKemmish makes the point that:

"social relationships carry with them socially conditioned ways of behaving and interacting that extend also to recordkeeping behaviour"

So we actually have a pretty ingrained sense of the records that it is appropriate for us to keep. Based on the nature (and state) of the relationship, we will keep or discard things. And we can do this instinctively or deliberately.

It is fair to assume that we would keep letters and tokens from a lover. But that we would mark the end of a relationship, by letting go of records of that time.


Those are some things that I've been thinking about this week. I just think that, given digital archiving is such a task, there must be a blimmin good reason why so many of us do it!

(PS - that is my Great-Grandma's tea cosy in the picture, and yes - I included it on purpose!)

Thank you for reading - I hope it has given you some food for thought!

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