I volunteer at my local public library. My job is to scan archived records of board meeting minutes, director's notes, and statistical reports that go as back as 1974. The legacy of this information sunk in for me when I realized that my mother would be attending college in the same town a year later, and my father would have been around my age in 1974.
As testament to the exceptional archiving abilities of our librarian forefathers, the archived material was in good shape and well organized by subject.The library wants to take a step in the current generation and make a digital database of scanned materials to streamline the process of digging up information. That's where volunteers like me come in!
I am so grateful to be able to volunteer my time to this project because it's been really fun going back in time by glancing at little snippets of everyday life. This glimpse into the past is all thanks to the wonderful art of banality. The library, as a government organization, is required to maintain its records for various bureaucratic reasons, and people have joined together a binder with many snippets of information along with newspaper clippings and letters. In the moment, I can imagine all of this meticulous bean-counting being a chore. I can sometimes hear the tapping of the typewriters (and eventually keyboards) as the minutes of the yearly board meeting is recorded and a tired sigh as the final draft is written. The fruits of this labor is a transchronological experience that for people like me glancing at this moment in time.
A lot of history is made with large, sweeping , events, but the banality of everyday life is rarely preserved.You know the date and time of various battles in World War II, but you don't know what Joe Somebody said to Jane Whatever* in passing between that time.For people writing historic fiction, the everyday banality of past lives suddenly become essential in building a world that people can believe in.
With large advances in technology and social platforms, there is more banal details put out in the world than ever before. It's a fascinating thing to take part in, but it's overwhelming when everything put on the internet has the ability to be archived like the notes in the library's binders .I am aware of the importance of banal details by my work archiving. People do want to know the small details, but too much information creates an incentive to digitize and probably shred the extra information in the future. Essentially, some of the small details retained become garbage in the end. That gives the average person about to share something on the internet a decision: will they write documentation of everyday life or will they be writing information soon to be shredded. There is empowerment in both decisions.
Writing essential information that is valued by many current and future populations gives the author a relevancy that lives on beyond their physical self. That is the secret to immortality: be important to someone in the future.With the pressure to build resonance is every line, it can get too overwhelming to share anything at all, and your voice is forgotten among the thousands more who wanted to say something but didn't.It seems that a solution to this situation is to share everything and wait to see what sticks. There is no pressure to preform exceptionally, and you can just let it be and wait for history to sort out your relevance.The problem with this method is that everyone is trying that method, so adding more to the voices calling for relevancy does nothing to create a voice for yourself.
I am personally neither for or against banality being shared. This is not a word of caution or advice. Frankly, I've never really thought about the resonance of documented information until recently. It is empowering to think that everything I write could go on years after I am gone, but it is also overwhelming when I consider how I want these documents to appear if they actually live on. The only advice that I would give is to at some point stop and think "do I want this to be my legacy?". I have thought about it a lot lately. The future is uncertain, but the only thing I have control of in the future is how my actions were made to affect it. I am trying to be both cautious and uninhibited so that if the details of my life is put in a binder that it won't be shredded.
*I call Jane Whatever as the name of my feminist grunge band.
ETA: I am having trouble formatting the pictures to not be freakishly large. Bear with.