I read this morning on the BBC News website that some 5,000 letters and notes written by Charles Darwin are to be published online.

As I also have a hobby researching history, I spend a lot of time reading other peoples letters and correspondence to get a feel for how people were reacting to a situation in the past.

How about today’s correspondence though?

We still write to each other – but use email and text messages as the method of communication.

Do you save all your emails and SMS’s though?

I have saved a few SMS’s which are personal to me, but the bulk is deleted – so no record of my correspondence is left for future generations to study – if you’ll forgive the conceit that future generations would actually want to read my writings!

SMS is not so important – but email is the modern letter.

How often have you lost old emails due to backup failures, or simply deleted them as “old and not important” ?

Checking my email achive, it seems that my oldest email is from the 13th November 1999 – even though I know I was using email long before that. How much of my life have I lost?

This is not just idle curiosity though – when I came out of hospital a few years ago and realised that I had lost a large chunk of my memory (it wasn’t immediatly obvious), I was able to scan down years worth of emails to try and rebuild a picture of what I had done over the years. My email archive was a vast help in that.

Anyway – back on topic – I do find myself wondering how future generations might understand the society of today if we treat our email archives with such casual contempt.



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