What should we keep, and what should we throw away? We use a case study of three boxes that Chris’ parents asked him to finally sort through.
We started by opening up the three boxes of childhood debris that Chris’ dad and stepmom had packed up for him from their house. We uncovered some cute artwork and writing, magazines, mix CDs, and a lot of toys and books that basically he forgot to discard or give away.
Then we headed to the Provincial Archives of Alberta to get a professional opinion on what to keep, and what to get rid of.
Braden Cannon is a Private Records Archivist at the Provincial Archives of Alberta. He gave us some background on how much archives throw away (or rather, securely destroy), and what they actually keep. It sounded like not very much in Chris’ boxes was likely of archival value.
But what about emotional value?
We decided to follow up on some loose threads from a previous episode, A Rather Queer Roadtrip. In that episode, we published some love letters that University of Alberta English professor JT Jones had left behind in his collection, from a dancer/dance reviewer named Casimir Carter.
Frances Cruden, as it turns out, was a neighbour of JT’s. She helped us speculate on what JT would have thought about being outed.
David Lewkowich gave us another perspective on the letters. He is Casimir Carter’s great-nephew. And he told us what it meant to hear those letters were still around in the U of A Archives.
The painting at the top of this post is by Edmonton artist Sarah C Louise. It has a companion poem:
My Final Report
She smiled so often
Tears at the ready
From little frame
But stories don’t slip the way memories do
I’m sure you explained everything
When my ears were too small to receive packages
We never wandered
I wondered if I knew you
Mind rocked to foreign tracks
History with loose edges
You may not have known I was yours
But you lived,
And I would have liked to know about the prairie fire
Or the time you refused a pressing suitor
Or about your first new dress
You remained a flashlight, banishing the darkness
Trees are willing to say more than my relatives
Not for inability, but the other magnitude of reasons
For the best, I know.
My only memory shall remain:
A smiling face
Small, bursting eyes
A faint echo of a struggle
Perched just behind polished face
Hoping never to be heard
- Family Histories: Preserving Your Personal and Family Documents (a helpful guide from the Provincial Archives of Alberta)
- How to Donate Your Records to the Provincial Archives of Alberta