Never should I wonder why my list of incomplete family projects grows no shorter in spite of completing projects at a reasonable pace. It has happened again that as I completed one project, two more rose up and demanded my attention.
This is what happened: Almost five years ago, the daughter of my recently-departed first cousin lent me big box of family memorabilia, which we scanned or photocopied or investigated in the local military museum. That which was scanned went into David's downstairs computer which I don't use; in the ensuing years I forgot about all those images. Earlier this week at my request, David copied all the graphic images he had on his computer, to mine, into Picassa. Reviewing the thumbnails, I found the material that had been scanned, and it stood up on its hind legs and demanded that I turn it into a book. I wasn't terribly surprised that it demanded my attention in this fashion; it has happened before.
The material was scanned images of the pages of four autograph books, the earliest entries dated 1911.
To make a start on what will clearly become a PROJECT, I emailed a friend in Toronto - we talk almost every day and he is accustomed to hearing strange things from me - to ask if he had ever had an autograph book. His reply said he had not, that he wouldn't cross the street to get a look at a famous person much less demand their autograph. THAT kind of autograph book was NOT what I had been talking about. I feel that way about the famous as well. No, my scanned autograph books are little notebooks with blank pages in pastel colors in which friends and relatives write messages, quote poetry, draw pictures and sometimes just sign their names. In these four, the level of artistic merit of some of the drawings and paintings approached professional standards. Naturally the clincher for me was that most of the signatures in the entries were my kin and connections. Reproducing these autograph books and making the content accessible within the family is going to be a pleasure. I see each little page being somewhat enlarged (the original size was about three by five inches) and accompanied by text expanding on the identity of the contributor, his or her relationship to the owner of the diary and his or her connection to the wider family.
Given that the first entries in the two oldest autograph books are dated 1911, I am going to give myself until 2011 to complete this project. It is nearly 2009; I shall use this blog entry to remind myself of this plan. Meantime I should get on with the three OTHER projects currently on the front burner: David Stark, David's grandfather, Deirdre Crane Heagy, my niece who died in 1991 and my father.
I started this entry a few days ago. Since then, YET ANOTHER project has raised its head. David's cousin Marilyn was executor for their uncle's estate; Marilyn sent me, the self-appointed family archivist, a package of the documents, letters and photographs she found in the course of her executor responsibilities. So now Uncle Stan's book is calling to me too. Today I am feeling daunted. But I know that tomorrow I will feel excited and energized - and get on with it.