Time to tell

One of the things that sets Blithewold apart from other summer cottages in Rhode Island (aside from the grounds of course) are our extensive archives. The family left a priceless treasure of decades worth of photographs, letters, playbills, menus, journals, home movies and clippings in the attic – everything was saved. Generous family members have also passed relevant information and pieces from their own archives back into Blithewold’s keeping.

For years and years a devoted corps of volunteers, under the direction of our curator, Margaret Whitehead -who herself, started as a tireless volunteer, have been cataloging, transcribing, and scanning everything – and finding new information every day. So far the rest of us have only been given glimpses into Blithewold’s past by reading Margaret’s newsletter articles and the interpretation in the house, and by begging for stories but now … drum roll please … I’m really pleased to announce that the archives will be blogged!

Andrew Brennan, an intern going for a Masters in History from Providence College, has embarked on an epic endeavor to publish (portions of) Blithewold’s archives, along with his interpretation of them, to the interwebs. All of us who are interested in the family can look forward to getting to know Marjorie Van Wickle Lyon, the letter writer, and Estelle Clements, a habitual journaler, so much better.

He is beginning his journey with a particularly timely parallel – Marjorie’s trip to Egypt in 1904 – and judging by his introduction, I can also look forward to learning much more than I ever knew about a different era… A time not-so-very-long-ago when letters were handwritten and journals were private…

The blog is still in beta form and it may move to a different address soon but for now you may read it – subscribe to it! – here.

Did anyone in your family write letters or keep journals? Were they saved and have you read them?

4 thoughts on “Time to tell

  1. What a wonderful project. I have no family journals, but after her death I did come into possession of a year’s diary a friend kept and found out what a difficult life she had been enduring. Sometimes very painful stories are revealed in a diary.

    Pat, What a privilege to get that kind of look into the story of your friend’s life. I think those of us who keep a journal often use them to work out the rough stuff. -kris

  2. Wonderful! “when letters were handwritten and journals were private…” what a notion. I have old family albums, but no journals that I know of. My mom’s side were German immigrants and Tennessee farming folk, and I’d love to know if they kept some kind of record.

    Lynn, Maybe someone kept their old seed orders – wouldn’t that be fascinating… -kris

  3. Oh yes. Many many journals, letters, personal histories, photographs, and ephemera. Mormons are famous for it. Attempts were made to organize everything into scrapbooks but they got pulled apart a bit over the years so it all needs to be reorganize. I feel for those on the Blithewold project. It is no easy task. But your archives sound much more interesting than mine. None of my progenitors had the coin to take trips to Egypt.

    Mine neither, Susan! And my family didn’t save much anyhow – I’ll have to live vicariously through the Van Wickle’s… -kris

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