I wrote this post whilst sitting in the wonderful institution which is Barter Books in Alnwick. I have since been beset by tech issues (such as camping in a field!), meaning no posts for a few of days! Sorry!
Anyway, a former railway station, Barter Books offers an amazing range of secondhand books along with comfy armchairs, real fires in winter time and lots of quirky features such as a ceiling top model railway, murals and many original station features.
It is also the home of the original Keep Calm and Carry On poster. The poster, which was originally designed to be used in the event of German invasion during the Second World War, was discovered by Barter Books' owners, in a box of paperwork. They liked it, put it on the wall and look what it has spawned! A whole industry of "slogan ware"!
However, the example of this poster is good demonstration of something which has been giving me thought lately. With the electronic generations, how will future family researchers "stumble across" things? And how will families make future discoveries like old tickets, letters, posters and be able to muse on their ancestors' pastimes or personal lives? It is possible now to rarely even have to touch a paper ticket, for example - be it for travel, theatre or whatever. And even if you print a paper ticket for a trip, it somehow doesn't look the same in a scrapbook or collection!
I had grandparents from a generation that still wrote letters and cards (no such thing as Moonpig.com to remember birthdays for you!), printed their holiday photos (however bad - you could not choose shots a la digital), etc. Yet I still have precious little in the way of written material from them. From my own parents, I will have even less - now that they have mastered email and text, even the rare letters from university days are no more.
What will my children have? I have always liked to collect bits and pieces as life went along so there will be a few things. But thanks to a parental divorce, numerous house moves and a '90s obsession with Feng Shui ("do you really need it? is it dragging you down? etc"!), even I don't have that much paper left for them to ponder over when I am gone.
Last year, I went on a visit to a university student union for the first time in twenty odd years. One thing that struck me was the corporate feel of the building. This was partly due to a total absence of posters and flyers. There were many ever changing screens advertising gigs, debates, societies, help. But no paper. Good for the environment obviously but what about when you want to prove that you saw [insert Band Name!] before anyone else??! I can only presume that it will be photos of such events, stored on the endless "Cloud" which will provide evidence of such doings.
Historians dealing with "aristocratic" history have traditionally had far less problems with the social and personal lives of their subjects. Families like the Percys at Alnwick Castle or the Cavendishes at Chatsworth have long had archivists. But how will they document, for example, the personal friendships of today? The current young royal generation are close to the younger members of the Percys. Presumably they too use social media and email etc to stay in touch. Will anyone ever have access to enough personal material to write a biography like Amanda Foreman's Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, which drew heavily on letters (and even those were censored by the upright Victorians!)?
I am seriously considering returning to a paper diary. Not that I am expecting a biographer to come calling but I would like my children to have the possibility of finding something from my life. And I just don't think my Facebook page, tweets or emails will be the same...after all, they really don't need to know "which Harry Potter character [I was]" (thanks Buzzfeed quizzes!), which clothes I ordered and sent back in despair or which comedians I followed on Twitter. Or maybe they will.... and it is me that is stuck in the Dark Ages!