When I studied History of Science, and I expect this is true for all researchers, one of the joys was the actual documents, papers, books, even some artefacts. Thank you Royal Institution, London for my time there and for how you now put pictures of so much on the screen. I loved the journey to the building, the being “allowed in to the archive” and so much more. It is above all not just ‘paper’ I remember, what I could hold, but also a feeling of how I fitted into the mindset of the Michael Faraday’s world, through the visual style of the pages. Whether copperplate or cramped handwriting, whether printed in a tiny font and with weird woodcut illustrations, somehow the impact of the real stuff helped me intuit an understanding of how and where and when, beyond content or words.
This week I got an email from the company that hosts my first-ever website.
They are closing the webspace hosting part of their business.
I have a month to do something with it, take down the pages, learn how to save them and move them to some other host. They make business like suggestions. I created that site from scratch, without a template, in 1997 !!! [Not a typo – in 1997 – I thought this new internet thing was going to be the greatest sharing ideas thing ever, and it has blossomed beyond my imagining.]
It is not just that I have forgotten how to do all those things [I even had trouble remembering how to log in to the webspace]. It is that everything has been superseded and updated. There is no way the clunky obsolete pages and their precious links are going to “save” as a whole ongoing concern. It is out of date anyway. I was ‘just keeping it’.
Now, I can, and have, downloaded all the pages into a folder. So it is saved. I can – and might – upload some of it on to a nice new wordpress site. Maybe I could re-create it exactly if I went to .org instead of .com – but life is a lot too short.
The visual style will go. Goodbye little visual ‘gif’s [made by taking one of my first ever digital photos of Jake the cat, using the ‘catseye’ as a marker – memory of Jake and his buddy Ellwood – who were my very own Blues Brothers, and long gone, just like the website]. What else goes? And all those other websites, that others have made?
I noticed before when I changed my WordPress theme on this blog – I never again have the ‘look’ I started with.
So whatever I do with my historic site, the way it was then, is indeed history.
Is this so for all the websites? How are historians yet to come going to intuit what was once my world? Can they feel that excitement I felt, the achievement as I learned how to do something totally new? How did Gutenberg feel? Or the monks who gave up illumination?
Can there be intuition that tells what it was like for those who went before?
Just in case – this is a screenshot of the first page of “Emotional Education” – as it was.
Gosh who is that person in the corner?