opening the box: a personal adventure in the archives

I have started teaching a new course this semester, Working with Archives, and it prompted me to open my own little chest of treasures. I spend my days digging through other people’s records, and I thought it was time to pay my karmic debt and open my own treasure chest to scrutiny. What my students found, and what I had forgotten was there, was strange and delightful: old photographs of me with high school friends; notes from my mother (a personal favourite that one student read aloud: “It is vitally important, my Darling, that you be in command of your own happiness”); pieces of mica picked up during hikes with my husband in Frontenac Park; a small Celtic cross saved from the glove box of a Renault 12 that a friend and I bought for 100 l. to tootle around Ireland in the 90s. It was a deeply humbling experience–first, to see my memories laid out on a surprisingly small patch of table, and second, to watch students pick up a piece, consider it, and move on. It filled me with even more gratitude towards those Victorian administrators who, all those years ago, pinned, tied, and boxed notes about the appropriate colour of Royal Navy pantaloons and debates between English or imperial pints for future readers to discover. Each little piece helped build the world we live in, no matter how silly it may have seemed to store them in the first archive

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