life in archived motion

Today I spent about 5 hours sitting in a hot stuffy little room pouring over page after page of personal correspondence between an old (now deceased) English scholar and every random individual who happened to send him an enquiry.

It is kind of like searching for the pearl in a dust bin.

I was looking (and will return many more times in the next few months to continue looking) for insights into the cultural phenomena of shoes. I was semi successful. In two and a half boxes thus far investigated, I found one solid piece of interesting information, and one pieces of trivial marginalia.

Several things struck me while going through his letters and lectures. A few of these include:
1) While the advent of computers and auto-correction may have made the average author less grammatically inclined, I was struck by how many typos existed in (often quite formal) letters. While these were corrected by hand, so the reading was not impaired, the final draft still bore a ‘scar’ that by today’s standards would be seen as sloppy.
2) While his career and professional expertise was in shoe technologies and industrial manufacture in England, much of his lectures were on topics as varied as architecture, music, or a phenomenological response to Brazil. One of my favourite topics thus far aims at understanding the difference between the physical and semiotic/metaphorical step, stair, and staircase.
3) People who are the types of people who leave their entire collection of files and artefacts to research institutions for the benefit of other people should spend more time keeping their to-be-donated items in a meaningfully organized set up for the aid of future researchers.

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~ by jeorgesmith on 13 April 2010.

2 Responses to “life in archived motion”

  1. Or they should have at least set aside part of their inheritance for the cost of scanning and OCR of their sloppy typing!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with #3. I’ve been cataloging one of the archives donated to our library, and most of the time it doesn’t seem possible to make coherent sense of the boxes of miscellanea we’ve got. (Oh, hi! I was taking a mental break on facebook and saw that you’ve started blogging again.)

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