Tag Archives: memories

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup two of my favorite items are Tracking Personal Histories Across Time and a Granata essay by Mavis Gallant, Memory and Invention. Gallant, one of the world’s great short story writers, raises challenging questions for all of us involved in helping others recall memories. And Tracking Personal Histories is a meticulous recreation of a present day portrait from one taken years ago. The pictures are shown side by side and the effect is totally absorbing.

  • Hospice patients put life stories on CD, video for loved ones. “David Bishop heard his mother’s voice on the way to her funeral last year. It was coming over the car’s speakers, and she was talking about what a beautiful day it was as she sat in her kitchen…Eileen Bishop told her story to volunteers as part of the “Life Legacy” service offered through Florida Hospital’s HospiceCare. The program, one of several in Central Florida, is free and is offered to all patients willing and able to participate.”
  • Story sharing to educate. “Hoping to foster better understanding of the everyday lives of LGBTI people, the founder of digital story-sharing site Rainbow Family Tree is urging community members to share their tales of “life, love, family and loss” online.”
  • All-TIME 100 Best Nonfiction Books. “Politics and war, science and sports, memoir and biography — there’s a great big world of nonfiction books out there just waiting to be read. We picked the 100 best and most influential written in English since 1923, the beginning of TIME … magazine.” [Thanks to APH member Catherine McCrum of alerting me to this item.]
  • Tracking Personal Histories Across Time. “Sander Koot’s series Back from the Future is a pairing of new portraits of the individual with an older picture of that person from years past.. he only photographs individuals after interviewing them. “In this project, I ask people to find old portraits of themselves, of which they have good memories,” says Koot. “When talking to them about the picture, you see them reliving the happy moment. Only after I know all the details about the past of that picture, (do) we start the shoot.”
  • Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert [release date September 13, 2011] “I was born inside the movie of my life. The visuals were before me, the audio surrounded me, the plot unfolded inevitably but not necessarily. I don’t remember how I got into the movie, but it continues to entertain me.”
  • Stationery’s New Followers. “Social-media fans are embracing paper. While United States Postal Service sees a decline in mailed letters overall, tech-savvy paper-lovers—in frequent contact via blogs, Facebook and Twitter—are giving rise to a host of small stationery makers.” [Thanks to cj madigan of Shoebox Stories for alerting me to this item.]
  • Memory and Invention: An Essay by Mavis Gallant. “Imagination, all invention, will occur spontaneously – occur or interfere. ‘Interference’ means it is false, mistaken, untrue. Although I have kept a journal for years, I never look anything up. A diary is not a dictionary or the record of a meeting. Sometimes a sharp, insistent image caught in one’s mind, perhaps of a stranger glimpsed only once, will become the living source of a whole story.”

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Encore! Remember When. Songs That Recall Our Yesterdays.

Remember When. Songs That Recall Our Yesterdays. Music can evoke strong feelings and memories. It’s one of the ways we personal historians can help  clients unlock stories from their past. Not long ago some of my colleagues in the Association of Personal Historians began compiling a list of their  favorite songs that brought back memories. I’ve included some of them here and added some of my own. To listen to these selections, just click on the title. Here are four songs that resonate with me: … Read More

Come to Your Senses and Unlock Childhood Memories.

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.

                               ~Diane Ackerman

How much do we remember from our childhood? This is one of the questions examined recently by Canadian research scientists.

I’ve just finished reading Blanks for the Memories  which highlights aspects of the research originally published in the journal Child Development.

Neuroscientists believe that there are different kinds of memories, stored in many different neural circuits. “We can’t go to a particular spot in the brain to see where our third birthday party is stored,” says Dr. Hudson….

Scientists think the brain’s prefrontal cortex processes experiences, using sensory input from the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, sorts them into categories, and tags the various memory fragments with specific associations (smells of home, friends from camp, bugs, a pet, for example).

Reading this made me realize how important the senses are to unlocking childhood memories. I must admit I could do a better job of incorporating sensory questions into my interviews. To get me pointed in the right direction, I’ve written a few sample “sensory” questions below.

I tested some out on my mother and she had great fun. It turns out that a taste she strongly associates with her childhood is jelly beans. Her mother would carefully count out five each for her and her two siblings. Today this may not sound like much but during The Depression jelly beans were a real treat!

How much do you incorporate sense-related questions into your interviews? Do you have a favorite “sensory” question?


  • What do you remember most about your mother’s appearance?
  • Paint a picture for me of where you lived – the weather, terrain.


  • What sounds do you associate with your childhood? What memories do they evoke?
  • What piece of music  do you remember from your childhood?


  • What was your favorite food when you were a child?
  • What tastes do you associate with your childhood?


  • What do you recall were things you loved to touch as a child,?
  • What do you remember liking to run your hands over or through?


  • What are some of the pleasant smells  you associate with your childhood? What memories do they bring back?
  • What smells from your childhood weren’t pleasant? What memories do they evoke?

Photo by h.koppdelaney

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

This Monday’s Link Roundup includes two excellent essays not to be missed. Living life is by a student at the University of Virginia who appreciates the great value of recording lives before they’re lost. In the second essay, Paying Grandma’s nest egg forward, the author Peggy Morrison writes, “The week in Winnipeg taught me that families and their rich legacies endure for a long time, and it is important to discover the past in order to learn about – and appreciate – the personal sacrifices made.”

  • Living life. “TRAVELING is defined not only by the places you see, but also by the people you meet along the way. While traveling this Spring Break, I happened to sit next to an elderly woman who quite unexpectedly taught me an invaluable life lesson.”
  • The 3D Type Book: A Typographic Treasure. “After months of anticipation, The 3D Type Book by London-based design studio FL@33 is finally here. Dubbed “the most comprehensive showcase of three-dimensional letterforms ever written,” the book is nothing short of stellar: With more than 1,300 images by over 160 emerging artists and iconic designers alike, it spans an incredible spectrum of eras, styles and mediums.”
  • I’ll Have a Short Story to Go, Please. “Want to enjoy short stories on your iPhone and Android? Award-winning short story writer Tessa Smith McGoverns has the solution. She’s the creative brainpower behind eChook, an app that delivers bite-size fiction for online consumption.”
  • A race to document the mysterious history of 1000 English words. “At the University of Minnesota, a linguistics professor is racing against his own mortality to finish a dictionary that will explain the origins and history of some of the most mysterious words in the English language. If he completes it, it will be the second time any language has had its linguistic history documented in this way.”
  • Rare Footage: Home Movie of FDR’s 1941 Inauguration. “This silent color movie was shot by FDR’s son-in-law (Clarence) John Boettiger, who was then working for the Motion Picture Association of America, and the quality of this rare footage is quite outstanding. Watch the full 14-minute version here.”
  • Paying Grandma’s nest egg forward. “My brother, Jim, my cousin Janice, who is the daughter of my uncle, and I were meeting at my brother’s home to begin to pull together the history of our Finnish grandparents, Andy and Katri Jacobson.”

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How Old Letters and Recovered Memories Bring Satisfaction and Hope.

We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Last week I was doing some spring cleaning and came across a collection of letters I had written to my parents some forty-five years ago. At the time, I was a young man teaching in Ghana. After University I’d joined CUSO, a Canadian voluntary organization similar to the Peace Corps, and had been assigned to the West African country for two years. I’d asked my mother to keep these letters as a partial record of my experience.

Dan and the staff at Sefwi Wiawso Secondary School, Ghana

Last week was the first time I’d looked at them in over four decades. As I read through these tissue thin blue aerograms, covered in tightly composed script,  I was deeply affected.  My younger self was speaking to me across the years not only about his wonder at this new place and culture but also about his hopes and dreams.

I feel that I want a role in life where I can work to benefit those among us who are not so privileged. I have long given up the idea that I alone can solve world problems. But I do feel that I have something and that I can contribute a little to working out some of our problems.

In a powerful way I came to see that the life I had hoped for has been lived. The values I held then are still close to my heart. It gives me encouragement as I look ahead to the “third chapter” of my life. I suspect it will be  a time  every bit as challenging and eye-opening as my days in Ghana.  And I hope I’ll face the future with the same degree of passion, curiosity, dedication, and openness as that young man did all those years ago.

The letters also confirm how much detail and texture of our past is simply lost unless we have journals or letters to refresh our memory.  I was surprised at the events, people, and places that had faded from my mind.  In fact, it turns out that the Ghanaian secondary school compound where I lived and taught wasn’t exactly how I remembered it at all!

My letters home illustrate the great value that memorabilia play in unlocking the stories of our life. But not just the stories.  Those letters also helped me understand something of the person I am today.

Here are a few random thoughts:

  • Start a journal. It’s never too late. Begin recording the details of your life. One day you may want to write your life story and these journal entries will be invaluable.
  • Preserve old letters. Make sure that you keep your correspondence safely stored in acid free archival boxes.
  • Search for original documents. If you’ve been hired to produce a personal history or you’re doing your own, make sure to uncover any letters, journals, or photographs that will help trigger memories.
  • Use archival documents to reveal values and beliefs. While memorabilia can aid in triggering a recall of past events – go further. The stories that emerge from the past can provide powerful clues to the essence of a person and the things that person holds dear.

Photos from Dan Curtis collection

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup don’t miss  Jonathan Harris: The Storytelling of Life. What a unique way to tell your life story! For something to get your week off to a smile be sure to check out Photos of Famous Writers (and Rockers) with their Dogs. Now  for us cat lovers all we need is Photos of Famous Writers with their Cats! Let me know if you come across such a collection.

  • The Long Goodbye. “Meghan O’Rourke’s memoir about the death of her mother, The Long Goodbye, is out this week [February 16,2009]. The book began as a series of essays for Slate, which we’ve republished below.”
  • How Genius Works. “Great art begins with an idea. Sometimes a vague or even bad one. How does that spark of creativity find its way to the canvas, the page, the dinner plate, or the movie screen? How is inspiration refined into the forms that delight or provoke us? We enlisted some of America’s foremost artists to discuss the sometimes messy, frequently maddening, and almost always mysterious process of creating something new.”
  • Tech Tips with Lisa Louise Cooke: WDYTYA Revisited & Photo Gems. “Photographs capture once-in-a-lifetime moments and treasured family memories that we certainly don’t want to forget. But assembling them in a way that can be enjoyed for years to come is not as simple as it was in the old days when we sat down to our scrapbooks and prints. Here are three tips for assembling your precious pics in a way that will delight you and those you share them with.”
  • Photos of Famous Writers (and Rockers) with their Dogs. “Courtesy of New York Social Diary, here is a lovely series of photographs featuring famous authors and their dogs. If you’ve ever wondered which breeds have served as muse to William Styron, Stephen King, William F. Buckley, Kurt Vonnegut, then this collection is for you.”
  • Jonathan Harris: The Storytelling of Life. “When he [Harris]turned 30, he decided to start taking one photo every day and posting it to his site before going to sleep — a seemingly simple, private project that soon turned into a fascinating exploration followed by thousands of people around the world. Our friends from m ss ng p eces — you remember them, right? — are back with another lovely documentary, capturing the project and the vivid, earnest curiosity with which Harris approaches the world.”

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Remember When. Songs That Recall Our Yesterdays.

Music can evoke strong feelings and memories. It’s one of the ways we personal historians can help  clients unlock stories from their past.

Not long ago some of my colleagues in the Association of Personal Historians began compiling a list of their  favorite songs that brought back memories. I’ve included some of them here and added some of my own. To listen to these selections, just click on the title.

Here are four songs that resonate with me:

“If I could save time in a bottle/The first thing that I’d like to do/Is to save every day ’til eternity passes away/Just to spend them with you”

“Memories, may be beautiful and yet/what’s too painful to remember/we simply choose to forget/So it’s the laughter we will remember/whenever we remember/the way we were.”

“There are places I remember/All my life though some have changed/Some forever not for better/Some have gone and some remain/All these places have their moments”

  • We Rise Again performed by Ann Murry, Rita MacNeill, The Rankin Family, and Men of The Deeps

“That as sure as the sunrise/As sure as the sea/As sure as the wind in the trees/We rise again in the faces/of our children/We rise again in the voices of our song/We rise again in the waves out on the ocean/And then we rise again”

Here are some other great songs from my friends at the APH. What are the songs that speak to you about the past?

“It’s not a question/but a lesson learned in time./ It’s something unpredictable but in the end it’s right./ I hope you had the time of your life./ So take the photographs and still frames in your mind.”

“Grandpa, tell me bout the good old days/Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy/And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday”

“Remember when thirty seemed so old/Now lookn’ back it’s just a steppin’ stone/To where we are,/Where we’ve been/Said we’d do it all again/Remember when/Remember when we said when we turned gray/When the children grow up and move away/We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad/For all the life we’ve had/And we’ll remember when”

“Blowing out the candles/on another birthday cake/Old enough to look back and laugh at my mistakes/Young enough to look at the future and like what I see/My best days are ahead of me”

“Time it was, and what a time it was, it was/A time of innocence, a time of confidences/Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph/Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

“Once upon a time there was a tavern/Where we used to raise a glass or two/Remember how we laughed away the hours/And think of all the great things we would do”

  • Dream performed by Judy Collins

“I wish, I wish, I wish in vain/That we could sit simply in that room again/Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat/I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that”

“You must remember this/A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh./The fundamental things apply/As time goes by.”

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Photo by Ford Veate

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup Famous Last Words should provide an entertaining distraction.  Here’s a sample of what you’ll find.

“Yes, it’s tough, but not as tough as doing comedy.” Actor Edmund Gwenn, upon being asked if he thought dying was tough.

On a more serious note take a look at Why Indiscretions Appear Youthful. This is interesting reading for personal historians.

  • 100 Places to Find Your Next Great Read. “Whether you’re into classics, mysteries, or a fluffy romance novel, it can sometimes be a challenge to find new books to fall in love with. However, the Internet is full of great sites that can help you get connected with books that you’ll really enjoy reading. Check out these communities, review sites, and other outposts of quality books to discover great stories.”
  • Roll Your Own E-Books. “Want to ditch the heavy backpack full of books and join the digital book revolution? Here’s out guide to creating a digital copy of just about any book — whether it’s your own masterpiece or an old paper copy of Cervantes — into a digital book.”
  • Library archivist explains how to research the history of an old house. “Anyone who lives in an older house knows it has a story to tell about its past, if only they could unearth it. When you live in an old house, “You form a bond,” Debra Charpentier, archivist at the Millicent Library, told an audience of close to 50 people at the library on Saturday.”
  • Online Storytelling Part 1 – EdmontonStories. “The City of Edmonton created the online storytelling repository EdmontonStories after corporate branding research revealed a big “perception gap” between local residents and other Canadians. Edmontonians generally love their city, with its endless sunshine, ample parkland and lively festivals. Outside of Edmonton, however, the city is often stereotyped as a shopping mecca and tax haven with miserable weather, little historical interest and poor liveability… One certain measure of EdmontonStories’ success is the sheer diversity of content now offered on the site. Stories are available in 17 languages, with both text and video content.”
  • Famous Last Words. “Last Words are interesting, illuminating and entertaining.  The Famous Last Words widget quotes some of the best epitaphs, last words, and final quotes from celebrities, celebrity gravestones, and old funny tombstones. We’ve provided them here in widget and feed format so that you can add them to your website, blog, or personal homepage in order to receive a different one every day to reflect upon.”
  • Why Indiscretions Appear Youthful. “We can’t make up the past, but the brain has difficulty placing events in time, and we’re able to shift elements around,” said Anne E. Wilson, a social psychologist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. “The result is that we can create a personal history that, if not perfect, makes us feel we’re getting better and better.” [Thanks to Hella Buchheim of lifestorytriggers.com for alerting me to this item.]

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup, I was charmed and fascinated by World War II London Blitz Diary. Nothing beats an up-close account of major events. For something that’s just fun, be sure to check out The A to Z of the Shortest Book Titles.

  • The A to Z of the Shortest Book Titles. “C by Tom McCarthy, one of the novels shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, is not the first novel to be assigned a single letter from the alphabet as its title. In fact, there are numerous examples that stretch from A by Andy Warhol to Z  by Vassilis Vassilikos, although not every letter of the alphabet appears to have been singled out for the literary treatment – does anyone want R?”
  • Family Stories, Memories, and Alzheimer’s: What You Can Do.“When a loved one starts losing family memories, it affects the whole family. Sometimes, the changing stages of Alzheimer’s Disease  are marked by a renewed interest and focus on preserving family stories, history, and keepsakes, by family members who realize how much stands to be lost to future generations.”
  • World War II London Blitz Diary 1939-1945. “My great grandmother, Ruby Side Thompson (1884-1970) an English housewife and mother of seven sons, kept journals all of her life. The journals from 1939-1945 are particularly interesting as it is written in London during WWII and the Blitz. These diaries were passed down through the family to first her daughter in law and then to her great grand daughter.”
  • Turning Business Owners Into Stars of Their Own Stories. “ONCE upon a time in Chicago, there lived a man named Abe. He owned a neighborhood pharmacy, Polin Drugs, and worked behind the counter. His father and two sons lent a hand. When people could not afford doctors during the Great Depression, they scraped by on Abe’s free advice. He kept the doors open until midnight. He knew his customers by name.”
  • Paper Beats Digital For Emotion. “Direct mail is so last millennium, right? Ultra-efficient digital marketing seems all but certain to supplant actual paper marketing delivered by humans. It might be a little too soon to shut down the paper mills, though, according to a study by branding agency Millward Brown.”
  • Goodness, gracious: Jerry Lee Lewis writing memoir. “Lewis, in a statement from the publisher, says he is ready to say “a whole lot” about his life. He says, “People can read it, burn it, or never give it another thought. Either way the truth is about to be told, and I’m the only man still standing who can touch it.”
  • Fotoflexer Review “FotoFlexer’s tag line hypes the Web-based picture editor as the “world’s most advanced online digital photo editor”—and it certainly packs in enough features. It includes many of the same elements that have made Picnik  (Free, 3.5 stars) a success—namely, simple browser-based image editing—and FotoFlexer adds a few of its own advanced tools such as layering and animations. Unfortunately, it lacks a few of Picnik’s features—it could use more help for new users, too—making it a good online photo editing tool, but not a truly great one.” ~ PCMag.com

The Best of Monday’s Link Roundup.

As many of my regular readers know, I’m taking a two week “staycation”. I’ll be back on September 6th. I’ve delved into my archives of over 300 articles to bring you some of my favorites over the next couple of weeks.

To start, here’s the best of Monday’s Link Roundup. Enjoy!

  • Once Upon a Time in the Bronx Author Richard Conniff writes, “The purpose of family stories is to tell us who we are, and how to live, in good times and bad, and it seems to me that, without thinking about it, I have always regarded Pop, the great-grandfather I never knew, as my model.”
  • Archive of American Television“… houses over 600 rare, in-depth, videotaped interviews- exclusive conversations with the biggest television/film/media stars and iconic industry figures who work behind the scenes.”
  • One in 8 Million “…an oral history project in which a different individual among New York City’s 8 million residents is profiled each week of 2009.”
  • Mapping Main Street: “… a collaborative documentary media project that creates a new map of the country through stories, photos and videos recorded on actual Main Streets. The goal is to document all of the more than 10,000 streets named Main in the United States.”
  • A life without left turns “This wonderful essay was written by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and President of NBC News.  In 1997, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.”

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