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Noted: Safety in Objects

Feb 16, 2011

by Michelle Traub

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

“It is so essentially human, this desire to locate our important mental data outside of ourselves.” — Alyssa Pelish, “Safety in Objects”

I have always been anxious over heirlooms. Having already lost the Kodachrome portraits to my uncle, I’m afraid I will be cheated out of a wedding dress or a latke recipe. As progeny of recent immigrants, I can’t help but lament the lack of history in our things. I envy my peers whose family tree diagrams bleed off the edges of the page, whose estates date back through wars and revolutions, filled with the stories of a bloodline. How am I supposed to know my past without the records?

In this era, it feels like a day cannot pass without photographic documentation on Facebook, spontaneous revelations tweeted, and salacious courtship texted. Despite all this, inboxes disappear and hard drives crash. It may be rooted in nostalgia, but there’s something deeply unnerving to me about the fact that I will not have shoeboxes of Polaroids on the top shelf of the closet for my children to rummage through, but instead dusty discs full of data in obsolete formats. I’m having a hard time believing that I will remember anything without the tangible. Thus, when I read Alyssa Pelish’s piece over on 3 Quarks Daily, who takes our reliance on the souvenir from Proust to Blade Runner to the iPad, I am tempted to print it out, glue it into my notebook, and save it as best I know how.

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88 comments

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 6 years ago

    So true!

  • julessabjewelry

    julessabjewelry said 6 years ago

    Although the digital age as created a fantastic medium for more creativity and hoarding of information, I fear that without my hard drive I may forget my favorite things. So, as a way to try to make the most important favorites tangible by taking up crafting. I'm not very good at it, but the touch of a photo or the texture of the ropes from my honors cords spark memories more endearing than any computer screen to do. Michelle - keep printing and gluing to your heart's content.

  • granatina

    granatina said 6 years ago

    Hi, Michelle, thanks for this article! I have the same feelings... I spend a good part of my life looking to the screen... but, I think, never I could renunce to read books, real books, with their smell, touch, history...

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts said 6 years ago

    Agreed. Each time I load a bunch of photos on Flickr, I make sure I have them printed as well. There is something so much more meaningful about curling up on the couch with your children to look through actual prints on paper than gathering around a computer screen. Just my opinion...

  • frommylifetoyours

    frommylifetoyours said 6 years ago

    So true , history is everything.

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 6 years ago

    good thing I'm not technically savy; I just have the unkept shoeboxes.

  • JudiPaintedit

    JudiPaintedit said 6 years ago

    Every place I travel I look for a souvenir shop... I love them!

  • Earleyimages

    Earleyimages said 6 years ago

    I try to print every image that I want to save

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    As I treasure every sepia toned photo of grandparents I never met I sit here and can't remember the last time I printed out any of the dozens of pictures I take today.

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 6 years ago

    This is beautiful, and so true!

  • QueenofCuffs

    QueenofCuffs said 6 years ago

    I so agree. Sometimes the 'object' can restore a memory by the feel, smell, in fact so many trigger points that computer pics could never do. I love my computer - but holding something in your hand has the 'tangible' connection we all need. Love the title "safety in objects" - that's what etsy is.

  • RosieJo

    RosieJo said 6 years ago

    I agree and yet I also feel the need to declutter, every time I pick up a piece to discard I am aware that it may be the piece that I regret. And many of my early memories I have because of the associated photo, does this mean the digital age will bring generations whose memories begin at the age of 8?

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine said 6 years ago

    My great grandmother brought 3 treasured objects and a few photos when she emigrated with my grandmother and her many siblings. Grandma went back to Russia in the 1980's in an attempt to see her childhood home, but her town and all nearby settlements had been wiped away. A least the photographic record of the family still exists.

  • carousel2

    carousel2 said 6 years ago

    i too am always freaked about the loss of photos...in the process of scanning and putting them in a fire box....i know its extreme, but it calms the nerves HAHA

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Great article!

  • KeepEvolving

    KeepEvolving said 6 years ago

    Fabulous!

  • HadaraTLV

    HadaraTLV said 6 years ago

    Great!

  • heatherfuture

    heatherfuture said 6 years ago

    As friends post photos of their babies on facebook, I can't help but wondering if, in 20 years, the act of rummaging through Mom's keepsakes will transform into rummaging through Mom's facebook photos. I don't want to trust my nostalgia to the internet. I'm quite certain that technology will never replace the lovely feeling of holding a beautiful and meaningful object.

  • Pipkyn

    Pipkyn said 6 years ago

    I worry about this and have since started printing my favourite pictures and putting them in albums... although I've also been told a theory that collecting photographs actually means we forget experiences as we concentrate too much on what's in the still image... which I always thought was interesting.

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 6 years ago

    so true

  • collectiblesatoz

    collectiblesatoz said 6 years ago

    I totally agree

  • CrayonHall

    CrayonHall said 6 years ago

    Great article!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Agree!!! Great article!!! =)

  • blueroompottery

    blueroompottery said 6 years ago

    So true!! Great article Michelle!! :>)

  • kristincoffin

    kristincoffin said 6 years ago

    Beautifully written piece. I certainly have a need to create partly from my desire to pass on tangible things to others.

  • churchstreethandmade

    churchstreethandmade said 6 years ago

    This exactly why I bought a film camera on ebay just a few days ago. After looking through my Mom's photo albums, I realized that as soon as she got a digital camera the photo albums end. Now, where are all of those years? Gone, thrown out with one hard drive after another. Isn't it funny that having a digital camera, a device that was supposed to give us nicer, better quality pictures, leaves us with almost none at all? I'm not dissing the digital camera. I will still us mine - but will also snap a few on film as well, develop them, and put them in an old-fashioned photo album.

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards said 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing! souvenir shops have always been special to me and as far as I can remember we never left a place with my parents when I was little without stopping by the souvenir shop... coming back home I was looking at my little souvenir treasures as a way to make the vacation and memories last...

  • choisette

    choisette said 6 years ago

    i need to go to souvenir floating pen addiction rehab.

  • GlamourGhoul13

    GlamourGhoul13 said 6 years ago

    :-)

  • RageoftheAge

    RageoftheAge said 6 years ago

    Excellent excellent points raised here.

  • afternoontees

    afternoontees said 6 years ago

    I feel that same panic. For years I've been saving important photos from Facebook, not trusting that it will be around forever! I hope to print them all out when I've saved the money... I also use disposable cameras a lot, haha. Photos printed from film are still so special somehow.

  • AmeeliaBedelia

    AmeeliaBedelia said 6 years ago

    Makes me think about the people i know who get so wrapped up in taking pictures to post on facebook, that they almost lose the experience of the moment they are trying to document! I'm a sucker for a good photo, but maybe that should be balanced out by trusting our own memories? If we commit ourselves to being more present in each moment, I think our recall of those moments gets stronger....

  • ChocolateRoseMint

    ChocolateRoseMint said 6 years ago

    I too agree. I have my parents photo album from the war years ( WWII ) and the touch & smell of the pages always give my heart a strong squeeze, knowing also that at one point their hands held those photos & gently glued them onto the pages while remembering those moments. A few photos may appear on Facebook, for those who want to see images of war planes & my dad in his RAF uniform, but the majority of them will forever remain quietly with me, to linger over alone, sometimes with my family & maybe one day with grandchildren, without the digital world dimming their individual beauty.

  • chalkoholics

    chalkoholics said 6 years ago

    Bonaza is a great gift shop for souveniers

  • WoodlandCottage

    WoodlandCottage said 6 years ago

    Many moves--literally--over many incarnations of my life have meant losing cherished items along the way. The grief of loss is offset, however, by the joy of other cherished items. I find it's a way to remember who I am and where I came from, as well as a tribute to those who came before me. Thank you for sharing!

  • AmberGypsySky

    AmberGypsySky said 6 years ago

    Your article makes me feel lucky. Although I don't possess any of my family heirlooms yet, we do indeed have some tangible keepsakes from generations ago. It's ok...don't despair :) Etsy is here!

  • UnadillaWoodworks

    UnadillaWoodworks said 6 years ago

    Thanks for the good read and the intro to a great site.

  • pellucida

    pellucida said 6 years ago

    Glad you enjoyed it, Michelle! I, in turn, enjoyed your reflections. - Alyssa P.

  • vintageandretroshoes

    vintageandretroshoes said 6 years ago

    excellent article

  • pulpandpaisley

    pulpandpaisley said 6 years ago

    Lovely article and so true. We haven't developed any photos from our camera since our son was 3months old. He just turned six and has a 2yo sister. Shame on us! Thank you for the most eloquent kick in the ass.

  • ChrissiesRibbons

    ChrissiesRibbons said 6 years ago

    Wow, beautiful sentiments which echo my own exactly.. i'm even tempted to go back to traditional film in my family camera so I have to print them out. So what if most don't turn out well... just to have those pictures in their solid form would be a change from my digital hoarding.

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 6 years ago

    This is a great reminder of the risks of relying too much on technology for preserving your memories, if they're in your computer, always keep a backup, or print some out in coffee table book format - we learned the hard way by having our computer break down and losing 3 years worth of photos.

  • MorgainesWell

    MorgainesWell said 6 years ago

    Discarding is also a critical thing to do to help history to survive. Trash is important. It tells so much about how someone lived you can not even imagine. In a way, it is better to throw things away than to hold onto them. The longer they are with you the more chance there is they will slowly die a horrible death and be useless later when someone like me tries to put together what remains of this time period to create a window to the past, so they can understand how we lived. It is relaly important to throw things away! Because these objects that get lost to time tell myself and other archaeologists so much.

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 6 years ago

    This is a great reminder of the risks of relying too much on technology for preserving your memories, if they're in your computer, always keep a backup, or print some out in coffee table book format - we learned the hard way by having our computer break down and losing 3 years worth of photos.

  • JulieMeyer

    JulieMeyer said 6 years ago

    I have all the newborn pictures of my daughter sitting on a crashed hard drive that I never printed or backed up. That's up in the closet for someday that will probably never come when we fork out the thousands to try and have the files extracted.

  • poorjimsvintage

    poorjimsvintage said 6 years ago

    I also envy those whose family history is so black and white and in more ways written out for them. I also cherrish family heirlooms. :)

  • tripperdungan

    tripperdungan said 6 years ago

    I love bonanza gifts! I lived close to there as a teen. I visit every time I go back to Las Vegas. As far as the article it reminds me of the promis I made to myself to print out all my favorite pictures.

  • bezaleljewels

    bezaleljewels said 6 years ago

    So true!

  • pixestreasurechest

    pixestreasurechest said 6 years ago

    Oh how true! I treasure all my family momentos, and especially love going through the old pictures, and absolutely love when my dad pulls out the old 8mm films of when I was a kid! Some things just can't be replaced!

  • oldnorthstate

    oldnorthstate said 6 years ago

    Hey, I remember that gift shop from my trip out west! (Although, I remember much dirtier signs posted around it...) Thanks for bringing back some good memories that were never documented!

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster said 6 years ago

    I work with the elderly and I always enjoy their objects, mostly vintage pictures and handmade things, and collectibles from travels. Those are the ones that people keep when they get old.

  • LaFemmeFanatic

    LaFemmeFanatic said 6 years ago

    Great article I would have passed over if I did not notice the Bonanza, which is right down the road from my house! Thanks for catching my eye! Great read!

  • SugarDragon

    SugarDragon said 6 years ago

    I truly know how you feel and it makes me sad as well. I just recently lost a one and only photo of me which was of coarse my favorite, because it was only available on a computer so I printed it on paper and it proceeded to get water spilled on it. *sigh*

  • Csmexartco

    Csmexartco said 6 years ago

    I like it!!!

  • TamsyTrends

    TamsyTrends said 6 years ago

    How very true! My kids and I always love looking at my old photo albums as well as all those old trinkets and souvenirs I have collected from past vacations and trips.

  • ShoponSherman

    ShoponSherman said 6 years ago

    There is nothing like the original photo. Especially when its the original black and white. I had some great family photos desroyed by a leak several years ago. I had already made copies, but the copies lose what the originals had.

  • AnnTig

    AnnTig said 6 years ago

    Very true!

  • beatyboutique

    beatyboutique said 6 years ago

    Incredibly insightful, I feel like I need to start a photo album now (a real one, not a virtual one!)

  • SugarCubeVintage

    SugarCubeVintage said 6 years ago

    how I miss the days of super 8 movies & shaking polaroid pics!

  • jewelrybysala

    jewelrybysala said 6 years ago

    Souvenirs are the tangible thing that reminds one of a great trip. I always find something to bring back, even if it's just a rock from the desert. My husband likes shot glasses. And you have to take pictures or buy those postcards of where you've been.

  • jewellerytreasures

    jewellerytreasures said 6 years ago

    interesting read and so true!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 6 years ago

    Theres something very comforting about having tangible 'stuff' when everything these days is digital. You can't touch it - its not real. I still have boxes and boxes of photos.

  • CuffandCollar

    CuffandCollar said 6 years ago

    Great article

  • bsiripo

    bsiripo said 6 years ago

    That's great and interesting article.

  • PereLachaise

    PereLachaise said 6 years ago

    Great post Michelle :-D I am personally waging a daily "protest by action" rebellion against "fleeting electonic connections" in favor of my beloved, old school, "things you can actually HOLD, FEEL, and DISPLAY" way of living. But what can I say....I'm a sentimental sensualist so I really have no choice!

  • Katydids16

    Katydids16 said 6 years ago

    Ironically, the picture of the World's Largest Gift Shop in Las Vegas is more nostalgiac for me than anything I have seen in a long time. Having grown up in Las Vegas, I remember passing this place all the time. I now live in Buffalo NY, the LV photo brought back lots of great memories.

  • bmused

    bmused said 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing the article!

  • HulaGirl1922

    HulaGirl1922 said 6 years ago

    Most people are at least a little bit worried about losing the past. Memory is messy; it’s most of the time hopelessly inexact and fragmented....But I still do long, in what I think is a very human way, for safety in objects. a good memory is priceless... bravo on a good read ♥ thanks so much!

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle said 6 years ago

    Thank you for posting this. Love the article!

  • anandi

    anandi said 6 years ago

    Lovely writing. I am going to start making hardcopy photobooks of the best of our digital photos just for this reason. Also, keeping a journal is a great idea to "preserve yourself" for future generations of your family, if that's something you're into :)

  • shannondzikas

    shannondzikas said 6 years ago

    Gasp, The Worlds Largest Gift Shop photo brought back a truckload of memories. My Daddy bought me moccasins there in the 3rd grade and in H.S. we spent nights there looking for art class inspiration. Thanks a hundred times for the reminder of who I am even if I'm no longer home in lovely Las Vegas.

  • MetroGypsy

    MetroGypsy said 6 years ago

    Curious - thanks for sharing!

  • kayratastaki

    kayratastaki said 6 years ago

    I agree with you.Great article

  • RingAroundbyRosie

    RingAroundbyRosie said 6 years ago

    Some of my most treasured memories have no viable objects attached to them. Perhaps that is why they are so treasured - because imagination and emotion have allowed the memories to expand.

  • tuckooandmoocow

    tuckooandmoocow said 6 years ago

    I can vividly recall a time when I was 5 reliving a memory of a family trip from a year earlier to my dad and telling him I never wanted to forget him carrying me on his shoulders behind the waterfall, but how could I be sure I wouldn't forget? He told me that if I just made sure to review to memory every-so-often I would always remember it. My 5 year old self really latched on to that idea. To this day I journal fairly obsessively, constantly tell stories to my younger siblings, friends and family, and take the time to just sit and remember. On the one hand I am a bit of a pack rat--everything has some meaning and special value--but on the other hand I am constantly being told how good of a memory I have. Since I can't sit and compare my memory to others, I'll have to take their words for it. This article really resonates with me. I completely understand that feeling of wanting something tangible especially to pass on. When we die, our memories die too. I suppose that's why I journal so obsessively: to immortalize in some small way what little of the earth is me.

  • girliepains

    girliepains said 6 years ago

    I try not to collect u_u only cameras! haha

  • stepbackink

    stepbackink said 6 years ago

    Great point brought to mind. Sam

  • amyfine

    amyfine said 6 years ago

    great post

  • JoyGJ

    JoyGJ said 6 years ago

    up!

  • deesbowsnthings

    deesbowsnthings said 6 years ago

    I very much agree! My husband collects Souvenirs from everywhere he goes, and I scrapbook all of the things I would love to remember in the future. My kids now only 5 and 4 love to look at the scrapbooks full of pictures of my husband and I before they were born and their own baby pictures. You keep printing and glueing there is no better way to keep those memory's alive. The computer can not keep them for us forever. Putting the pictures on paper and keeping them this way adds charactor to the memories in my opinion!

  • tiemee

    tiemee said 6 years ago

    I've recently got a new notebook to jot some thoughts and ideas down...it's nice to have ink and paper sometimes! Thanks for sharing this!

  • MissTessaMelissa

    MissTessaMelissa said 6 years ago

    My grandmother passed away in January, and I am inheriting most of what was left behind. My mother left a box in in the rain in the back of her truck on accident, forgetting it was there, only to discover (a week later!) that it was full of all the family photos dating back to the 1920's. Many were lost to water damage, but most were saved. Either way, when I got the call from my mom, I cried so hard at the thought of losing all that history! They are important not because we need to have external memories, but because we want to pass those memories down to the people who were not there.

  • Thepixtakers

    Thepixtakers said 6 years ago

    Love the article - nice one

  • HoleyCow

    HoleyCow said 6 years ago

    I love the article.. but am sad to see so many miss the opportunity in this digital age to still do things OLD SCHOOL as you call it. I'm not sure why so many think just because you took a digital picture its lost in some technical age.. you can go and print those out the very same way you can a old school camera.. and make sure and print out the not good ones.. those often capture greater points to remember then the perfect poses.. I also see so many forget that you can scrapbook all the digital things and include almost every single item you collect on your travels through life. Things don't have to be digital. There is no reason in this technical savvy world that anything has to be lost.. if its lost.. its because someone chose to loose it. Preserving memories this way is the exact same way our families did it 100s of years ago. put everything in these books. Receipts, bags, postcards, pictures, souvenirs, you name it.. it CAN and SHOULD go in there and be saved.. and you CAN touch this stuff.. If one gets in the habit of when coming home from the park or vacation, start putting the STUFF in the books, when you get some free time print some of those digital pictures and slap those babies in the book too.. BADA BING BADA BOOM.. memories that last a lifetime. and NO you do not have to go buy all the scrapbooking crap that is out there (although I love it and have a houseful!) Old school scrapbooks are still available and all you have to do is add stuff.. no expensive papers, no ready made do dads, just your memories and your handwritten notes about the time. Trust me.. your great grand kids would do anything to get a hold of something this simple but so amazing

  • SteamyRomance

    SteamyRomance said 6 years ago

    My kids have cell phones and ipods. They will never know about the value of heirlooms unless we make sure it happens. Such a great article and so true. I'm so glad I was always a slight hoarder. I still have a lot of my old stuff, including, Thank God, my Duran Duran scrapbook!

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