If you've kept a journal all your life...

Several years ago at a craft show, I was chatting with a journal customer who had kept journals her entire life. She said to me, "I think I need to have a burning party before I get too old. I didn't write journals to burden my kids with them, what else could I possibly do with these things?"

Letters and journals are first-hand accounts of history. They often have more value than their keepers realize. As I suggested to the customer, if you or someone you loves has a collection of letters or journals that are a burden in some way, perhaps you or your loved one could consider donating them to a local historical society or history museum.

On the radio today (I'll post a link when it becomes available), I heard a historian from the Washington State History Museum speak of a collection of journals the museum owns. They are from a woman who kept journals for much of the 20th century. She worked a mundane job at a department store for most of her life and cared for her ailing mother and husband as she grew older. The historian spoke of how these journals are some of the only first-hand written accounts available chronicling women's changing roles as caregivers in this region. Fascinating.

Sure, people everywhere keep journals, and with the advent of blogs, journals can seem ubiquitous. Ditto for letters and email. But if everyone thinks this way -- all letters and journals will eventually go the way of the scrap heap.

Especially if you are sitting on a collection of letters or journals written by your parents or grandparents -- at least find out if they have value to anybody besides yourself before pitching them or starting up the bonfire.

By the way, that same customer I spoke of at the beginning of this post returned to my booth later in the weekend to let me know that she had decided she would donate her journals if she could find a suitable place to donate them. She had already begun the research to figure just that out.