Record Your History with a Photo Card

Of course, Ms. Cards Etiquette has been glued to her tube every Sunday night to watch the HBO miniseries John Adams. Produced by Tom Hanks and starring Oscar Nominees Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, it shows a glimpse into the beginnings of the United States. The series was based upon the Pulitzer Prize winning book John Adams by historian David McCullough. Much of Mr. McCullough’s research was done in the Massachusetts Historical Society, which houses 1,100 letters John and Abigail Adams wrote each other between 1744 and 1818. The letters give detailed accounts of politics and events that happened during the time.

At the time, I’m sure John and Abigail didn’t think much of their letters back and forth. They probably only saw them as a way to communicate and not as a way of recording history. But that’s what they turned out to be. John and Abigail’s letters aren’t perfect: often you can see mark outs and misspellings. I’m sure if they had any idea that their documents would be studied by an entire nation, they may have worked on their handwriting and insured there were no spelling mistakes rather than just writing what was on their minds.

Today, I don’t think anyone believes that their letters/ emails/ IM’s could someday give a picture into the past. How many emails have you seen today that have misspellings? When people write online, it seems they seem to relax and just let it out — misspellings and all. They say what is on their minds and what his happening in their lives. They are recording history without even knowing it.

Things have changed with written correspondence. People see it as something much more formal than just a way to tell people what is on their minds. Instead of writing what is on their minds, they wonder what they are “supposed” to write. (One of the most asked questions Ms. Cards Etiquette receives is “What do I write on a ____ card?”)

From a historical standpoint, though, when a hard drive dies, how much history is lost?

Handwritten letter and cards are often kept, put in a shoe box and forgotten until someone finds it and looks through it. I’m sure there are many of us that have at least one birthday card or holiday card they have held on to. Photo cards, in particular, seem to be something people are very likely to keep. There’s just something about a picture that triggers the pack rat in all of us. But why?

I believe it is because a photo card represents a small, important moment of people’s lives. Even the mundane, given enough time, will be seen as fascinating. This is the history we are recording for our descendants.

Can you imagine what John and Abigail would have on their photo card?

Photo cards don’t just have to happen only during the holidays. You can easily make blank cards with no verse on the inside to use as regular stationery. When you’re waiting in the parking lot to pick up the kids, you can easily scribble a few notes down and send them to surprise an old friend. Just as John and Abigail’s notes were not perfect, yours don’t have to be either. Just let loose and write!

Feel inspired? You can make your own photo card stationery here.