Physical and Virtual Memories

This week in town has been crazy! Ever since the arrival of famous scientist Stephen Hawking, folks have been running around, making preparations and setting up a new apartment space for him. While I do look forward to chatting with him sometime about his work, I have decided to hold off and let the waves of people pass before approaching Mr. Hawking. In the mean time, I have to report to my job at the library, organizing and archiving the lost pictures, memories, and books that appear. The way it works is that any memories or items that are lost, destroyed or forgotten appear in our facility, and then it is my job to sort through it and archive it in the proper collection.

Today in particular, I reflected a lot about my job and the items we receive. In my hand I hold a few unlabeled CDs, family photos with dates inscribed on the back, and a floppy disk with the words “John and Diana 1994” written on the label. In the past, we received a lot of books and photos, but recently we have received more of these “floppies” and “compact disks” as I heard they were called. Recently we received a few computers that allowed us to access the content on these drives, and the resulting content varies. Some are games, others written documents and family photos. I still receive the satisfaction of seeing their faces and the joy they shared in their lifetime, but there is something off to me about looking at memories on a computer screen.

When you hold a photo, as I am doing now, and you see the creases of years handling and sharing a memory, a mother kissing her laughing baby, with the words “Baby Lily and Kate 1957” inscribed on the back, ridges in the photo paper from the pressure of a pen, you feel a connection with the picture. Holding a tangible item that others once did means more to me than seeing an image on a screen. But that’s just me. I know others don’t care as much about these sentimental things, but I guess that’s why I have this job. For now, I will be grateful for the tangible relics we do receive on occasion, and record my narratives in a journal that I can reread later. –Clarisse McClellan

“Baby Lily and Kate 1957”