Go into a local antique store or museum, and you’ll find old photographs and books. Even an old photograph album will fetch a price at an estate auction. People like to collect memories and look at them in print over and over. It is a tangible connection to the past.
In fact I have a collection of photographs that I keep on top of my breakfast table under glass. When family or friends visit, it’s one of the first places people look, to see what — or who — is new or review existing images. It is a kind of photo album over which coffee or conversation gets shared.
Today photographs and books are digital. (The same is true of much music.) The digital memorabilia is stored in electronic devices: computers, electronic readers, cell phones, CD’s. Seldom are the images or pages committed to paper.
When the decades roll around, will anyone wonder what great grandmother looked like? Will they care how she lived, what she wore, what she read or cooked, what music she listened to? Unless a family historian preserves the digital data, the means to satisfy a great grandchild’s curiosity will be lost. Digital devices change rapidly. Electronic data is corrupted with time. No one keeps photo albums, phonograph records or print book libraries any more.
Grandmother’s favorite recipe with her notes or Grandfather’s comments in his Guide to Trout Fishing – and the accompanying family photographs showing them engaged in these activities – will be vaporized when the iPhone falls in the soup or the thumb drive corrupts. CD content will get scrambled by children’s magnets. Even “the Cloud” will get hacked or compromised. Or the family historian will die of a sudden heart attack without passing on the storage location and password to the family history.
For all these reasons, I worry about this generation becoming the lost generation. Without tree books, paper photographs, and other paper documents to preserve images and stories about us, the proof we existed will be gone.
Oh, I forget. There’s always the landfill. . .thank God for archeology. We’ll be the generation defined by our trash.