Whoever said you can’t go home again wasn’t kidding! I thought I knew Chicago. I grew up in Illinois and was familiar with the sights. After I graduated from Northern Illinois University, I made a beeline for the Rocky Mountains, and made Colorado my home. However, I returned frequently to The Heartland for visits. A trip to Chicago with the family this summer proved there were many new things to learn about that old city. I had never seen Millenium Park, home of a giant mirrored sculpture, known as The Bean. This made me think about ways in which our experience and landscape are affected by change in general, and technology specifically.
The reason for the trip was a family reunion, finalized with a burial ceremony in a pioneer family cemetery among the cornfields of Illinois. How does one commemorate such an event, and provide a way for the young participants to remember the trip and understand its significance? How can they learn from what they have seen and carry it with them?
I provided each family cluster with a flash drive, brightly colored on a lanyard, so it would be easily visible, and not get lost. It contained a pedigree chart, a copy of the story of the family’s history, which was presented aloud at the cemetery, and an electronic scrapbook containing historic family photos, including important captions identifying people and places in the photographs. Paper might have been more visual, but would have been cumbersome, and might eventually get lost in the shuffle. The 8 GB flash drive could also serve as a storage place for photographs from the trip. The unspoken purpose was for backup for safekeeping that multiple copies of the family history artifacts provided. I certainly hope flash drives endure.
What do we do with our photographs these days? In the digital age, hundreds of prints for scrapbooks are not practical. CD storage has become an option with an uncertain future. Who knows where we go from here. Trends are ever changing. Recently at a Red Rocks concert, many people sitting nearby entertained themselves while they waited for the performance by taking photos of one another and themselves, then sending them off to friends on their phone, hardly bound for longevity or preservation. At a recent wedding, the groom read his vows from an electronic notebook, then handed it to the bride so she could read hers. Will these trends seem outmoded as an eight track tape player in ten years time? Will artifacts we store now using one method be accessible a generation from now? I guess all we can do is hope for the best, and pay close attention.
Joyce B. Lohse