Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Brookline Keeping Society

{NYT 4.5.15}

There was a great article in Sunday's  New York Times by Heidi Julavits titled , Turning Clutter into Joy"  about the value of hanging on to bits and scraps of the papers of everyday life.  This is the sort of activity that is the opposite of Ms Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up  that we discussed here earlier.    Ms Julavits applies the "Does it spark joy?" litmus test prescribed by Ms Kondo and found that while her junk didn't spark joy, "Other people's joy sparks lots of joy in me."   She indulges this joy by volunteering at the  The Brookline Keeping Society in her small Maine hometown.

I was intrigued at the idea of a small town safe-guarding mementos that people bring to them .  If the Keeping Society had more money and space, it would be a museum.  Doesn't "Keeping Society" have a more accurate ring to it?    This is a small-town operation run by a staff of volunteers who open the door  to visitors one day a week.  The information on their website is old -time Maine at its best - they explain that an eNewsletter is an "electronic newsletter" just in case that wasn't clear.   But they are not Luddites - they have a Facebook page full of great old pictures with detailed information about the photos.   It's fun to read the comments from people who knew the people in the photos or who think they might be able to identify them.

Here are some images from their Facebook page:


Full-coverage bathing attire can't hide the mischief going on here.

What is she reading?    Why is she wearing both a hat AND an apron?

Confession - I love finding old papers, books, lists and photos. I've bought several photos of "instant relatives" at estate sales to add to my collection.  If there is a faded envelope with a post-marked stamp to be had,  I'm in heaven.   

I inherited an old sewing machine from my friend Barbara .   When I went through  the drawers, I was happy  to find a WW1 gas ration card and stamps, almost as happy as I was with the machine.

Then there's this treasure - The Captain's step-grandfather's WW1 diary, started in 1917.   He wrote in it nearly every day of his deployment, mostly from France.   He kept in contact with a man he met in France and saved those letters, too.    

And my grandmother's papers from Hungary:

There's something about old pictures, notes, and lists that makes them intriguing.   You can't help but wonder about the story they are telling - what was the occasion,  why are they looking so sad, why did they save the notes, who was the letter for?    Anyone doing ancestry research online (The Captain is obsessed!) can find all kinds of old handwritten documents - voter registry,  census forms and more.   But there is something about holding the original document in your hand that makes these bits of history become real.    

Thankfully folks saved these pieces of their lives and I wouldn't think of discarding them.    I'm happily purging other things, but not these priceless bits of ephemera.  I, too, find joy in other people's junk.

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