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PRESS & MEDIA

Handwritten History

I always think of my Mom this time of year.  She used to start writing notes to friends and addressing Christmas cards the first week in December.  She had the most beautiful handwriting, having been schooled in the Palmer Method.  Even her quick “scribbling” was an attractive conglomeration of swoops and flourishes.

The history of the National Heritage Corridor is captured in small details by letters written over the centuries and carefully preserved by families, historical societies and museums.  I wonder how the history of our new 21st century will be preserved.  The handwritten letter has become an object of art, as well a document, a rarity in this day of texts, emails, blogs, electronic postings and printer-generated communications.  None of those emails or texts will be carefully bound with a ribbon and packed away for their memories.

Handwriting itself is fast becoming a thing of the past.  Almost no one writes in a cursive hand any more.  Whether graceful or blocky, beautiful or illegible, each person’s handwriting is so distinctive.  We give up a part of our identity when we opt for the speed and immediacy of a machine.

The handwritten letter has become the dinosaur of communication.  Why?  It takes time and care to write a proper letter.  There is a cost involved for stationery and postage.  Most of all, handwritten notes lack the immediate effect of emails.  That’s regrettable because emails are notoriously poorly written and not deserving of the status of historic document.

As it happens, December is Write a Friend Month, highlighted by National Letter Writing Day on December 7th.  I think this provides a nice incentive to create our holiday communications manually.  Think of the future historians in the National Heritage Corridor who will thank you.