Saturday, August 25, 2012

In A Hundred Years

If you've been following as I have the story about a mysterious 100-year-old package dated to be opened now by the staff of the Gudbrandsdal museum in Norway, here's what they found:



Although a complete list hasn't yet been made available, evidently the package-within-a-package was filled with letters, documents, notebooks and fabric banners, all of which delighted the historians.

Any time one of these time capsule-type stories pops up in the news I have mixed feelings. I love seeing the discovery of artifacts from the past, but it also makes me wonder if all the electronic gadgets we use plus the slow evaporation of meaningful personal writing (like real letters that you write with a pen and mail in an envelope with a stamp to someone else) will deprive future generations of any legacy we might want to cache away for them. Even if we could somehow save the e-mails and texts and other e-communications for a hundred years, given the usual dubious quality of the content, would anyone really want to read them?

I'm pretty realistic about what might survive me for a hundred years. Probably not my books, unless Project Gutenberg or something like it is still around and takes an interest in preserving my stories once they pass into the public domain. One really positive aspect of not being a literary author is that it's almost guaranteed no kid in 2150 will be forced to read and write a book report about one of my stories. Is there any worse fate for an author than the prospect of becoming Boring English Lit Assignment #999?

Oddly enough I think what I do that has the best chance of making it a century or more are my quilts. I've quite a few that I put together using traditional techniques and fabrics that (if properly stored and cared for) might go the distance. I like the idea of my quilts still being around for future generations to enjoy, even if it's just some far-off branch of the family. Besides, how can you hate something colorful and soft and warm and cuddly?

Now it's your turn: what would you like to leave behind to be discovered in a hundred years? Can be anything at all; your choice -- just remember, it should be able to last at least a century. Let us know in comments.

21 comments:

  1. I don't know, Lynn. I'm betting that when Ray Bradbury wrote his stories, he didn't envision a future where students would be reading his work either, but they are. I think it's entirely possible that in 2150, some English teacher will hand copies of StarDoc out to her students. And it won't be even close to a boring assignment.

    I'd love it if someone was reading my books in a hundred years, but if they weren't, it would be neat to have someone discover them in a box somewhere. 'The Lost Works of B.E. Sanderson' has a nice ring to it. ;o)

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    1. Mr. Ray did keep me from going crazy in high school (although my Chekhov-loving English teachers would have had a collective cow if they'd caught me reading The Illustrated Man or Something Wicked This Way Comes in class, ha.)

      I love your idea of a Lost Works box. Or maybe Secret Works? Any time you add a little mystery to the mix it drives people crazy, no matter what era they reside in. :)

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  2. I've taken a lot of photographs (film and digital) as well as super-8 movies that I hope could survive to 2100.

    With regards to fiction, we are still reading the popular fiction of 100 years ago (look at the steampunk resurgence of Verne and Welles), so don't be too hard on your self. I hope that my family saves a few of my books that long...

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    1. I wouldn't mind being the next Dumas or Verne, but I think you have a better chance, Pete (judging by the fact that most of our classics are penned by male writers.)

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  3. I think it'd be nice to leave behind my best novel, short story, and poem accompanied by their first drafts, so future writers could be encouraged when they see the work doesn't have to be perfect on the first draft. They can also laugh at cultural references long-dead.

    A penny, so they can see and feel the extinct coin first hand.

    And a twinkie, with a letter stating, "This is at least a century old. If still intact, inform Guinness."

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    1. I read this novel written in the sixties by a SF author who was seriously trying to envision what life would be like in the year 2000. It was pretty hilarious, how wrong he got it.

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  4. Marianne McA2:47 PM

    One PTA meeting, one of the dads remarked that he'd been astonished, when walking through the grounds of the local university, to find several trees with odd fruit on them which turned out, on investigation, to be walnuts. (We're too far north for walnuts.)
    And I was completely thrilled, because they're mine - we've an ancient walnut tree in the garden, and in 1976 it was so hot that the walnuts seemed to have ripened, and I planted dozens of them in seed trays despite my horticulturalist father's opinion that they probably wouldn't do.
    And because he loved his plants, when they did all grow, he found homes for as many as possible - donating them to friends, nearby schools and the newly built university.
    And I like the thought that because of a romantic notion I took as a child, combined with my father's practical follow through, that in a hundred years there might still be walnut trees round the town, for other children to be surprised by.

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    1. What a cool thing. I love walnuts. Maybe my cranky old rose bush will make it another hundred years (probably just to spite me, though.)

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  5. I've done a lot of needlework over the years, many pieces of which I invested a lot to have properly stretched and framed. I've told the recipients (of the bigger pieces, especially) to make sure it stays in the family, because maybe one day they can take it to a future Antiques Roadshow taping (or whatever will be the equivalent in 75+ years) and get a nice surprise!

    - Bonz

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    1. I've seen so many samplers and other types of needlework survive for more than a century, Bonnie, so you've definitely got a shot. I think they last because they're typically well cared for and generally not washed.

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  6. Like Charlene, I'd like to leave some of my best writing. And my best artwork.

    And as some one who has been Boring English Lit Assignment #999, I can promise you get some great email. For instance, "My teacher made me read your book. I thought it was going to suck. It didn't."

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    1. We all know that kids are the toughest critics, so I'd frame those e-mails and hang them on the wall. :)

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  7. Shelley6:56 PM

    As a knitter I long ago resigned myself to the fact that a lot of what I make will have a short life - I make stuff for people to use and things happen. I do wonder if some of the lace will make it longer (I also tat). I do like the idea of many of my tools being saved or used - the older tatting shuttles, some of my wood needles like the ebony or the black walnut. I have some of my Great Aunt's tools and I like the idea of other hands carrying on when mine are no longer using the tools that gave me pleasure. I suspect my drop spindles will still be in good shape also.

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    1. I have some of the crocheted berets my grandmother made for me when I was a little girl, so I can tell you that if they're properly cared for and stored they will last at least forty years.

      I use old tatted lace on some of my crazy quilts (I can't say how old, but I'd guess anywhere from fifty to seventy years.) With age the cotton yellows a bit but the stitches are still tight and perfect.

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  8. A tiny part of me was hoping that the smaller package would read: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 2112. I would have to completely re-evaluate the Nordic sense of humor from that. Oh, well.

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    1. That would have been priceless. ;)

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  9. I can't imagine any of my writing would survive that long. There's so much e-pubbed work now.
    I do have a few drawings & paintings done on archival material. That may stand a chance as an unknown artist's work.

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    1. Which makes me think, I might have to burn some of my lamer paintings before I depart. Just to spare the retinas of future generations, ha.

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  10. I watched the live feed for about an hour before they opened the package. With all the fanfare and marching bands (literally!) and interpretive dance (literally!), I was really almost hoping, in a completely ornery way, that when they opened up the package and another package was inside, that there would just be a succession of packages getting smaller and smaller until there was a single piece of paper that said the equivalent of 'gotcha!' in Norwegian. Ahh well. Still fun to watch. I think it would be pretty cool if any of my scrapbooks lasted that long, Lord knows I paid enough for acid-free and all that jazz, they should maybe still be there. Who knows! :-)

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    1. With all the excellent, acid-free papers and supplies being produced for the scrapbooking enthusiasts you've probably got a pretty good chance, Emily. I have my great-grandmother's journal from the early 20th century, which she wrote in a composition book. Next year it turns 100.

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  11. Lynn,
    I wanted to let you know a cool story about a quilt in our family. My parents recently received a call from someone who 10 years ago had bought the house that my great-aunt owned in town. They had something that they thought was maybe ours, do we want to come get it? My dad said sure and picked it up, they didn't even say what it was, so we were thinking old photographs or something. When he got the package home, they took it out and it was a quilt done by my great-great-grandmother and a group of her quilting friends for my great-grandfather on his 7th birthday, which was in 1890. So we got this very well preserved 122 year-old quilt with the neatest things on it, every panel had something embroidered by the quilting group (some were very good and some not so good :)) It had best wishes, advice, birds, plants, etc. on each panel and they were all bordered together, it obviously took a lot of time, and looking at it was like looking at a hidden picture, every time you would see something new. So, yes, quilts can last a very long time and could be a precious gift to someone in the future.

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