Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Memoir Writing and e-mail Chains

(Our seventh entry in an ongoing series on preserving memories of loved ones…)

Preserve those memories while there’s still time!

For the past two weeks, we’ve been looking at recorded oral history interviews and how they’re used to preserve memories of loved ones.  I was focused on this particular strategy (preserving memories on audiotape) because it was the approach my sister used to record my mother’s memories.

However, Joe Da Rold, Director of the Plainfield (NJ) Public Library, reminds me that the oral history interview isn’t the only way to preserve memories.  At his library, they strongly encourage the practice of memoir writing:

“Our newest program at the library, the ‘Memoir Writing Club’ has become so popular we now have two groups of participants, and there could be another starting soon.  This began as an offshoot of our work in using residents to help identify the historical images in our photograph collection.  Some would start to elaborate and staff quickly realized we needed to capture this information.  The ‘Club’ was organized as a way to have residents share stories with us and with each other.  Many attend because they have been asked by family members to write family reminiscences but were unable to get started on their own.  Photographs and brief recollections written by staff provided the initial inspiration for the members.  ‘Club’ members now bring in their own photos and writings.  Approaches change from month to month, with ideas solicited from the participants: some write tributes; some choose a theme; and some continue to base their stories on photos.  Our Memoir Writing Club members are now delighted to read their written memories aloud.”

The Memoir Writing Club at Plainfield Public Library.

Equally intriguing, Joe mentions a new cyber-strategy for preserving family memories.  Instead of concentrating on the memories of a single family member, this e-mail strategy widens the circle to create a conversation of memories:

“Although many bemoan that e-mail is a poor replacement for letter writing, e-mail gives us an opportunity to save both ends of a correspondence.  I’ve heard of some creative families who send chain letters to family members, each adding and forwarding.  What a great way this is to record and share family history, and how much easier this is than using quill and Pony Express!”

© 2010 Lee Price

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