Category Archives: archives and sources

Cyril Cook & the Lost Letters of Katharine Susannah Prichard

Your KS #15: Cyril Cook & the Lost Letters of Katharine Susannah Prichard

Source: Your KS #15: Cyril Cook & the Lost Letters of Katharine Susannah Prichard | Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre – home

One of the most interesting things to happen in my research this year has been the discovery of “lost” letters of Katharine Susannah Prichard and new insight into the circumstances of Cyril Cook’s 1950 thesis on Katharine. It was my AS Byatt’s Possession moment, and I wrote about it for the KSP Writers Centre newsletter; read about it on the KSPWC website!


Lost diaries


The great diaries of Samuel Pepys weren’t discovered until a couple of centuries after his death. He expected them to be read one day, or at least his biographer Claire Tomalin thinks so. But they could have easily not been found and never been read. Imagine the diarist carefully recording their life, assuming they’ve preserved their days, only for them to be so terribly mistaken? The actual fate of their diaries is not the cherishment of future generations, but the moth or the flame. Continue reading

“I can’t leave this instrument”: an Anzac entombed on disc


ABC is reporting on the only known recorded letter by an Australian WWI soldier. Listening to the three and a half minute recording is an uncanny experience. He doesn’t know what to do with his precious time. He wishes he could move beyond the conventional greetings, and tell them plainly what he feels – but he can’t. Continue reading

Forgotten century?: the problem of preserving the past against obsolescence

News story on the Guardian today:

Piles of digitised material – from blogs, tweets, pictures and videos, to official documents such as court rulings and emails – may be lost forever because the programs needed to view them will become defunct, Google’s vice-president has warned.

In this story comes together all my hats: librarian; novelist writing about memoralisation; biographer using the traces of the past. In the long and often intelligent conversation in the comments thread, opinion seemed divided between those who agreed there was a problem (many of them Gen Xers and Baby Boomers); the technological optimists who think it will take five minutes to write a program to read anything in the future; and those living in a perpetual present who don’t even care if our worthless traces are obliterated.

In 2008, when I started working in the library I remain in one day a week, I was confronted with the problem of the Tape Collection, thousands of significant and insignificant public lectures and sermons recorded on decaying cassettes in a time-poor library. In the early 1980s, it was the pride of the library; they had to limit how many tapes anyone borrowed at once. They had a master version and a copy of each one. Thirty years later, we could never give the Tape Library the thousands of hours it required. We weeded. We began a digitisation program in between the gaps of just trying to get through the mountain of new material. IT issues ground us to a halt; there wasn’t enough server space to provide public access to the files. The digitised files are waiting for the right moment on a hard drive. But the majority of the data remains on tapes. And here, as far as I’m concerned, is the real problem. Not a limit of technology, but of time, in libraries and archives with mountains of Material Awaiting Processing, often measured in metres.