For this week’s challenge, preserve something ephemeral by transforming it.

If you grew up before, say, the mid-’90s, you know the feeling of being stuck on the digital-analog divide. My life today is almost 100% device-based, but so much of what I consider my “archive” is handwritten or printed — and consequently stuffed in boxes I rarely (okay: never) open.

You can imagine my delight, then, at seeing transcribingmemory featured on Discover recently. It’s a site where writer Angie Scarfe faithfully transcribes pages from the journals of her husband’s 98-year-old grandmother. The blog is clearly a labor of love — both for the person whose stories are being transformed into accessible blog posts and preserved for posterity, and for the written word in all its material, handwritten glory. As Angie explains:

The act of sharing what she wrote with her has been charming, mind bending, and bonding. There are certain passages I don’t look forward to sharing with her, or even reading myself. But this is what a chronicling of a life asks of us.

For this week’s challenge, we ask that you, too, take something ephemeral and non-digital and bring it to your blog for all of us to enjoy and reflect on. Of course, not all of us have access to a collection of century-old journals. So let’s define “transcribing” as broadly as possible: you could share an old photo from your childhood album, or snap a photo of a handwritten note from your best friend when you were 11. Record yourself singing a tune that hasn’t made it to iTunes, draw a sketch of your favorite room in your grandparents’ house, or simply write down a memorable conversation that would otherwise be lost to time.

I can’t wait to see what you dig up from your own archives, whether physical or memory-based.

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  1. Here is something to think about. When i was doing my family history I was handling 15th century sheets of parchment with wax seals hanging off, written in Latin. I input the information from these into a programme called family TreeMaker 6.0. When Microsoft updated the windows system …. it ceased to be readable. But the parchments will still be down the archive….

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    1. what he said. “take something ephemeral and non-digital…” thing is, it’s the digital that’s ephemeral. more compact, easier to access, yes, but ephemeral.

      my personal story is of a document that I considered important that i wrote in around 1990 — it has existed digitally in at least six different formats, one of which may now be readable. maybe. but the printout , the physical _thing_ is as easy to read today as it was 25 years ago.

      and think about that drawer of fifty year old photographs at my mom’s house. will any of my digital photos exist in fifty years? almost certainly not, unless i religiously copy them to new media every few years — or print them out.

      digital is practially a synonym for ephemeral.

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  2. Hi Ben, I love this post and it has come at a fortuitous time. I recently rediscovered my teenage diaries in all their multi-coloured glory and was thinking about adding excerpts to my blog. You’ve inspired me to get cracking on it! Thanks! Liv.

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  3. Is intresting that this show up right now.
    My first poem was about Africa,it was so hot and i got my self complaining about it,so i wrote an poem in rhyme.
    But i never see my self as writter,still don’t.
    So thoese early lines are gone,stories,poems that i wrote.
    I hope will protect my lines,so one day i can say i am a writter.
    This blog meen so much to me.Inspire me for more.
    Thank you

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  4. What a perfect day to choose this theme for the weekly challenge. I have a diary whose contents I never shared…It would be really satisfying to go through those now to select the best one for this challenge. Thank You!

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  5. this is so delightful of an idea. i checked out the site. My father was a prolific letter writer. So i am going to have a look and see if i can whittle it down to one to share with you all. Thanks for the shove

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  6. this idea is such a great one, makes you think outside the box and really gets you thinking about past experiences and memories. I would love to do this sometime this week!!!!!!! I am new to the blogging world and think this would be great for me.

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  7. I immediately thought of the letters from my great uncle who was killed in WWII that I typed up on our computer as a 15 year old, so that all the great Aunts could have copies.

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  8. Not having iTunes, I’ve no way of knowing if this song is there, but I’ve a pretty good idea that it is there. Nonetheless, I learned this and every song on the album from the album, and by album I mean, of course, LP…long loooooong ago, back when we’d have scoffed and perhaps even laughed you to scorn if you’d told us that music would be purveyed this way.

    Heart was my very first concert when I was 15. It was the tour promoting Bebe le Strange, the last album recorded with the lineup that performed this song with the Wilson sisters disbanded and reformed for the 80s power ballads and perms for days.

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    1. I think it’s that writing your life on every line. At the same time you are crying, dreaming, laughing, hoping, loving, like a good book…living it


  9. I recently posted about a diary entry I wrote in 1998 when I was a teenage mother. I photo copied the diary entry and placed it in a card for my daughter when she graduated high-school. When she was cleaning out her room recently, she sent me a picture of it and it brought on the tears. Read the diary entry here:

    I will admit I am embarrassed by my handwriting back then…haha!


    Great topic Ben!

    Liked by 1 person

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