Saturday, August 18, 2007

What is Worthy?

Preserving the Outpouring of Grief: Virginia Tech Archives 60,000 Items Sent as Condolences
was published in today's Washington Post. The questions it raises are how is grief archived and how will the decisions to decide what is worthy of being kept be made. Items were sent by mail and left at memorial sites. Some are digitally-born--blogs, songs, and online chats, Facebook sympathy cards, My-Space postings, even a memorial in the virtual world, Second Life. These will also need to be archived in some way.(See this website .)

The university's librarian, Eileen Hichingham, clearly sees it in terms of what will the potential researcher will someday want to see.

The importance is not only what came in, but you have to picture 10 years out. What is it? It's a research project. How do people mourn, how do they come together?

People felt an emotional response after this tragedy and it was compared to comfort food after a funeral.

You take the casserole over to the family, and I think people couldn't do that, but they looked to do something as close, as equivalent as they could.

The items included 32 cakes (one for each student killed), a kite from South Korea, thousands of tiny origami cranes, banners, cards, letters, drawings,posters, and stuffed animals.

Over 60,000 items have been received. The space to house it all is only 800 cubic feet. Tamara Kennelly, the university's archivist must decide what stays and what goes by November. The Library of Congress recommended to the university that 5 percent of the physical objects that were received be saved. It is indeed a daunting task.