Letter writing, particularly letters written in cursive, stamped, and mailed, is a dying art. When we look through storage boxes, some of most precious jewels we’ll find are letters. (See An actual Treasure Chest of Memories.) These letters from the past reveal a lot more than penmanship. They give a glimpse of personality, the formality of the personal relationship, and historical perspective.
Keep those letter writing memories alive:
Re-read them. Put aside some time and simply enjoy them. Immerse yourself in the past. Enjoy and cherish them. My parents saved every letter I wrote them. I saved them because they did, but never read them, thinking my own words wouldn’t interest me. Not true.
Just today, I came across and a letter I had opened with “Hello beloved parents, fellow countrymen, Greetings and Hallucinations from beautiful Echterdingen West Germany, home of the Stuttgart Fulghafen (airport). In the words of the famous lyricist, Jimmy Buffet, ‘The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.'” That first paragraph alone does reveal my 21 year old personality and the closeness and informality of my relationship with my parents.
Preserving old letters:
Not only should we keep old letters, we should preserve them for future generations. (As you can see from the picture above, this is a case of “Do what I say, no what I do.”) Warletters.com recommends:
Regarding original handwritten or typed letters, one of the best ways of keeping them in mint condition is to handle them as little as possible. For example:
- do not staple, paper clip, or use glue on the letters
- do not laminate letters
- do not put post-it notes on them
- do not secure them with rubber bands
Note: The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) has in-depth resources for Preserving Your Treasures, including books, documents, letters, paintings and more.
So how do you do all the enjoying and sharing without damaging your treasures?
Scanning and copying them allow you to continue to enjoy them without damaging them. You can also purchase archival quality see-through pockets or mats and include these letters in a scrapbook. If you’re not into scrapbooking, just include the letters alone. You can also frame a special letter or scan of a letter.
If you’re scanning, scan in color, even if the letters are in black and white. You can mount print outs of the scans in a journal or upload them to a blog.
Don’t overlook emailed letters. We think of emails as short and informal, but especially if loved ones live or are deployed overseas, the art of letter writing has gone digital. To preserve these letters, don’t count on your hard-drive. Print (and share) hard copies and use cloud storage. If your family is spread out geographically, Dropbox.com offers a great way to share digital memories. You can set up a folder where you store files online. Dropbox then allows you to invite friends and family to access and view your treasures.
Keep the art of letter writing alive by adding letters of your own to your “Treasure Chest.” Write letters to your children, your spouse, or even your ancestors. It’s a great form of personal expression.
When you write about your family history, include snippets from these treasured letters. They bring out some fun historical tidbits. For instance, reading back over a letter I wrote to my parents from Germany in 1983, I was struck by “I haven’t found a place that accepts VISA yet….”
In fact, these little quotes work great as photo captions and narrative for scrapbooking pages.
© Laura Hedgecock 2013