The end of paper

If Facebook is good for anything (and this could be argued either way), it’s good for reminding a blogger of her previous brilliance. Today I was reminded of this piece in my “memories on this day,” penned three years ago, and I thought it might be appropriate here. Enjoy.

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The end of paper is coming, and even the dinosaurs have to admit it.

I was a denier for a long time. My argument was that as long as we have hands and eyes, we’ll have paper. The tactile appeal would overwhelm the power of the computer, I maintained adamantly.

Then came along the iPad. No longer do I have to sit in front of my computer. I can bring my iPad anywhere and read it in any position. Tablets are getting slimmer, and it won’t be long until they’re as light and versatile as, well, as a piece of paper.

For an interview earlier this week, my potential client requested I bring my portfolio.

“Portfolio”? Huh? I haven’t had a portfolio for 20 years. I pulled all the news stories I wrote while working at my college newspaper out of the binder I used to get my first and second jobs and then refilled the binder with printouts of blog posts and e-newsletters I’ve created. I put a paper version of my resume (how positively ancient) in the front.

I used to write in my diary. Now I write blog posts. Memos are now emails. Love notes have been replaced by text messages. Insurance forms are PDFs. Cookbooks have been replaced by Google. Even dollar bills and checks are so yesterday, unceremoniously replaced by plastic.

On NPR’s Science Friday [recently], Verge reporter Ellis Hamburger predicted monthly bank and credit card statements someday will be replaced with something else that is not so much “monthly” or “statement” as it is “instant” and “app.”

It’s weird, frankly, to be a paperphile in this strange new world.

I literally have made my living in paper. I used to work for newspapers. Now I read my newspaper on my iPad. I once worked for a scrapbooking company. Now no one prints out their photos anymore. I write books (and I love my bookshelves of paperbacks). But now I write ebooks, too.

I’m still making my living on paper: Among other feats of wonder, I organize people’s old printed photographs in boxes. But I do this so people can scan those photos to save and share them digitally.

I think writers and editors will be around for the foreseeable future. But I’m not sure. Facebook, for one example, does a pretty good job of culling all the news of interest to me and presenting it on my personalized Newsfeed.

What will I do with all my manila folders? My shelves of photo albums? My backache from lugging books everywhere I go?

What a brave, new world.

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What does this box of photos say to you?

Remember the old Peanuts comic with Lucy selling psychiatric help for 5 cents? The punchline of her advice was usually something like, “Snap out of it. Five cents, please.”

I was reminded of good ole’ Lucy the other day, but instead of finding someone hawking psychiatric advice, it was memories. And inflation has the price at five bucks. Or $20.

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit Antique Archaeology last week in LeClaire, Iowa. It’s the store (or at least one of them) made famous by the History Channel’s “American Pickers,” which follows pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they excavate junkyards, basement, garages and barns across the country and find forgotten relics.

Like these:

pictures for sale

Look familiar?

No?

Good. Maybe your family member’s image hasn’t been reduced to a commodity. But someone’s has. It made me a little sad, this container of forgotten people. But on the other hand, these were images that had been rescued, quite literally, from the dustbin.

The store displays its found treasures in beautifully curated displays, complete with the rust — and sometimes the dust — that years of use and storage imbue on them. Even this wire basket with its pretty little tag (“Misc photos $5-$20 Ask for pricing”) invites shoppers to page through it and find some gem. I’ve seen much bigger, highly unappealing piles of beat-up photos when a clients hands off a box. But when that happens, at least someone is attempting to sift the chaff from the wheat and assign a value other than a monetary one to the memories contained within the images.

How many gems sit unloved in a box on a shelf in your home library? Or better yet, how many are languishing deep in the photo stream on your phone?

A pretty wire basket on the counter is not the most archival way to store your photos (light and dust and the risk of spilled coffee are deadly for long-term storage), but it is one way to appreciate a collection of printed images (like, for a timely example, all the pictures you receive in your Christmas cards this year). You could add a little tag that says:

Memories. Free.

Unmeasurable comfort in concrete form — a photo album

The role of social media played in the shooting of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward is being hotly debated in the wake of their horrifying deaths at the hands of a tragically violent former co-worker, but the aftermath highlights something far longer lasting: Parker’s photo album.

Parker created the photo album to celebrate the six-month anniversary of dating her boyfriend, Chris Hurst, who was interviewed today by ABC News’ anchor Robin Roberts.

“It brings me innumerable comfort,” said Hurst, clutching the book, when Roberts said, “I hope that book brings you some source of comfort.”

Innumerable comfort.

So much comfort, it can’t be counted.

A book. A simple book of happy photos created lovingly by the woman he adored.

I conclude my lectures about the ABCs of photo organization with a story of a similar album–one made by my sister for my brother’s 25th birthday. He died a year and a half after that birthday, and now nearly 19 years later, that simple little book still remains in a place of honor on my parents’ coffee table.

Tweets, Facebook feeds, news video and other social media standbys can go viral, reach hundreds of thousands of people in seconds, as the WDBJ7 tragedy showed. But photographs in that album Parker made and the words she wrote will be around so much longer than all those ephemeral electronic images.

Besides sharing our sympathy for all the people touched by this tragedy, we can learn two lessons about the value of memories from this shocking event:

  1. Photo albums bring a great deal of happiness to the people for whom we make them, and — when death comes, as it always does at some point — those albums can bring immeasurable comfort. Don’t let a social media site be the only place you share important memories with special people. Choose a more concrete option.
  2. It’s never too soon to create a photo album for or about someone we love. Parker was only 24, and she should not die at that age, but she did. Do not delay.

‘Grab your moments of grace’

“You can overcome many things, but you cannot beat the clock. Life presents imponderable opportunities for failure. Grab your moments of grace, and enjoy them while they last.”

This quote comes from today’s Ask Amy advice column. Sounds like a great argument for including all our stories, even the sticky ones, in our albums and personal histories.

Tips on preserving, archiving and displaying letters

Do you have a rich correspondence to preserve?

My 99-year-old grandmother and I have been exchanging letters for as long as I have been on my own. I usually write about the places I’m visiting, and she writes about who’s visited and the weather, all in her particular handwriting. I enjoy knowing what’s going on with her.

Many of her letters stored in a manilla folder, but I ran across this website the other day with better ideas for preserving important letters.

The Center for American War Letters offers tips on Preserving Your Wartime Letters, many of which could be applied to letters from any source. Some of the tabs include:

  • Storing and displaying your letters
  • Marking and cataloging letters
  • Temperature
  • Email
  • Repair and restore letters
  • Archive products

If you have wartime letters, love letters, letters from a pen pal or letters from Grandma you want to hang on to, check it out.