Paper Archives

Last week I listened to an interesting programme on the radio about digital archives and the way people can now keep track and record so much of their lives. I liked the view of an interviewed psychologist who said “there is a good reason we forget things”. I think this is so true – how much more messy would our lives be if we could instantly access images, text, video and sound of things long past that our minds and hearts would rather have edited out. 

Sometimes we need so little to recapture a memory or sense of time. Yesterday afternoon I looked through some of my old “visuals files” from the late 80s and 90s. 

I remember when I used to file these every few months I’d sometimes wish I was being more methodical. I remember seeing other illustrators who were filing saved images by category. Mine are random other than chronological (within a year or so) and compiled by what I thought looked good together. Now years later when I can use Google if I need to know how a certain animal looks or search images on a certain theme, what I most appreciate about these books are the randomness of them. I remember being intrigue by the Surrealists’ use of Lautreamont’s famous phrase, ‘as beautiful as the chance encounter on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella’.

I have a huge box full of similar papers from the last ten years that I’ve never got around to filing. I also seem to gather less now….whether this is because less catches my eye or there is less printed material generally or whether I just don’t look for it so much I’m not sure. I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences of collecting printed ephemera.

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