A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Are You a Storyteller or an Archivist?

Lakota storyteller: painting.Lakota storyteller: painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         We all tell stories.  We relate what happened to us at work or school or while out running an errand.  We recount memories of past events as we remember them.   The storyteller gives color to a past event whether or not the facts are accurate.  In many families the oral tradition of the family storytellers is the primary connection to family history.  The stories may be passed down through the generations with names, dates, and facts confused or forgotten.  Some of the stories may disappear entirely from the collective family memory.

          This is where the archivist becomes useful.  Many of us keep photo albums or scrapbooks that record parts of family history.  The serious archivist will label photos or mementos with names, dates, places, and other notes that will help identify what has been preserved.

            Archivists may also retain documents such as marriage licenses, diplomas, report cards, or other such things from parents or other relatives who may have passed.   Artwork, antiques, and other heirlooms can also be part of an archive.   The home of the expert archivist may take on the elements of a museum.  When well organized and displayed, such a collection can be an absolute delight to ponder.

           Then there are the hybrid methods of maintaining historical record.   Some who keep a diary may be simply archiving facts and data as a chronological record, while others may embellish that record by expanding their accounts into stories.  Some blogs do something similar to this.

           The "newsletters" that family and friends often send to others during the holiday seasons are another type of hybrid record that archive the events of the year in letter or story form.  Sometimes we may not care about or even know the people whose lives are recounted in these, but they are all part of a history--our history.

           My pack rat tendencies incline me to keep things like those newsletters, meaningful cards and letters, or other things that might represent some point in the timeline of my life.  I am an archivist, albeit a poorly organized archivist.  Eventually I intend on organizing everything properly, but at least I have many things that provide some clues and records to who I am and who I was.  I am also a storyteller who plans to compile my stories into book form.

            Hopefully the things we save, the archives we maintain, and the stories we record will be one day be appreciated by our children, grandchildren, and generations down the line.   Thankfully many generations of the past had the foresight to do this to give us the knowledge of history that we have now.  Not just the big picture of the history that we study in school, but the little bits of lives of people like ourselves who lived in times before we arrived on this Earth.

            It's human nature I guess.  We want to leave something behind to let others know that we were here.  It's our legacy.   Our archive.   Our stories...

            Are you a storyteller or an archivist?    Or are you a bit of both?   What are some of the things you do to leave a legacy and continue your family story?   Do you think what you are doing will help you or has helped you in writing a memoir?









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12 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

It seems I can only write a story in poetry form......strange but true,
I have left two books of my poems which have been bought here and there. I wished my children took more interest what I do.....ah well it keeps me occupied and may make someone happy.

Yvonne.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. I've never really kept things - a few perhaps, but now I wish I'd done more.

I have some information .. who knows where it will go - none of us have children ... so it could get sort of lost in the mix - but someone may well pick it - bearing in mind I only became interested in history or family records late in life ..

The blog will provide a Hilary's Historical take on life .. I would have liked to have taken an interest way earlier in life ..

C'est la vie ... I'm glad you're going to compile your stories into a book -

I feel like you ... it's our legacy, our archive, our stories .. our life as was ..

Cheers Hilary

D.G. Hudson said...

So glad you asked, Lee, I'm like you - part storyteller (since I'm far from my roots) and very much an archivist (an organized one for the most part). The blog post link below is about just that - documenting your life for those that follow. Some of us like to know that history.

DG Hudson - Rainforest Writing, It's Your Life - Prove it

What legacy will each of us leave behind? Don't wait too late to think about this.

Wendy said...

I've never thought about it before -- I must be more archivist than storyteller.

Lynn Proctor said...

had to choose--storyteller :)

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

I'm definately a storyteller. I do that through my blog. I tell my children family stories. Especially when they are studying History or Social Studies. I'll be tying in anything and everything I can about family. My sister is the archivist. She divides up photos and remembrances for family members in albums and passes them on. = Barbara
Life & Faith in Caneyhead

Arlee Bird said...

Yvonne -- A life remembered in poetry is a unique legacy.

Hilary -- Your take on history provides insight to something about you and that, as well as any other writing that one leaves behind, can be important.

DG-- I like reading and hearing the stories of those who came before, as well as seeing the pictures and artifacts of another time. I'll check out your post.

Wendy -- The organized archivist plays an important role in preserving history.

Lynn -- I think a lot of the bloggers would choose storyteller.

Barbara -- Perhaps the two of you should collaborate if you aren't doing so already.

Lee

Kathy said...

I believe I may have a little of both tendencies. In more recent years I have leaned more to story telling than archiving. I still take lots of pictures to document the events of my life. I just haven't put the words together with them in forever. Some of my favorite most cherished memories are of the stories I retell to my children of some crazy thing either of them said or did. It has been hard to keep my parents alive for my kids especially since one of them never met either, and my oldest only knew her Grandpa. He died when she was 3. Through pictures and old stories I try hard to keep them alive for them and me. Wonderful post!

Kathy
http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

Dee said...

Dear Lee, I am a storyteller as I seldom keep things sent to me or that I could collect. If my family reads my blog, then they come to know my life. The blog is meant to be an on-line memoir, which I ultimately hope to publish. We'll see. Peace.

Eve said...

This is great Lee! I've always kept things..I have some of my mother's report cards from grades 2 and 3, trinkets my grandmother brought over from Ireland, little things my kids made when they were small...I have always wanted to write a memoir, so I guess I'm part archivist and part story teller.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Arlee, there's nothing wrong with memories. I tried to digitize old memorable documents once, but it wasn't the same. I still have my late Grandmothers letters and I'm not letting them go.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Great post! I think I'm part archivist (somewhat organised but not enough) and part story teller. I've told family histories in published form and in-family booklets. Now my blog serves to record my own stories as well as family history.