Ink, scissors and glue: storytelling just before the digital wave

I’m currently working on a time warp project.  I’m adding descriptions and metadata to recently digitized press clippings dating from early 1900’s through …. I’m not sure yet.  Right now I’m in ’73 but time warping today over to the later ’50’s. It’s a magical kaleidoscopic peek into history, society, economics, world events, architecture…well you get it.  It’s not about today and it’s not 140 characters or less. #nohashtags.

Long before we had Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs and other digital media methods of creating content, we had newspapers.

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Newspapers were hands-on parts of the whole for an organization to read, snip, share and collect in a topical framework.  If you were capturing or curating moments in time prior to the digital age, you may have been grabbing the scissors, scanning the headlines and getting your hands covered with newspaper ink.  Once you found, clipped and pasted articles into scrapbook pages,  a tangible, linear and detailed timeline emerged.  Photos, captions, regular column topics, bylines, pub names with dates and geographic locations were ready-made elements of the story that lent rich context to that subject’s moment in time, using different sized fonts to get the story across.

Those linear, fixed and contextual clippings now spark my own reflection about how we distill and bring together pieces of current day captures of processes, journeys, outcomes and milestones.  The blur of digital exhaust quickly obliterates our bigger picture view of topics to track, describe and keep together.  The blur can cause us to ping pong around and lose focus.  The blur can make it harder to keep a cohesive, causal story with a clear beginning, middle and end.

If this blur is causing your organization to give up on what to capture, collect and organize, it’s time to re-orient and remind yourselves of the strategies and reasons for the work that you do.  Pause and reflect on the purpose of your work or cultural endeavor.  Convene conversations to lend appreciation for the paths and outcomes that you have already experienced.  Stop the blur to refocus on what really matters and how you want to prioritize the way that you record and reuse those elements for now and for the future.

Whether you are seeking to surface organization expertise, capture the unfolding story of the mission and its impact, or show how you achieve targeted goals, it all starts with slowing down the blur and intentionally and strategically getting the digital ink on your hands.