Student Museum ‘Musings’ – Emily

Hi there, I’m Emily, one of the summer students working at the museum this summer. I am a fourth year English Literature student at Trent University, hoping to go into Archival or Library Science in post graduate studies. I also volunteered here before this summer.

What I’ve spent most of my summer doing is digitizing a Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection. This collection is what you would get if you took Thomas Henry’s desk and poured it all out. In this collection there are correspondence letters, bill of sales, receipts, and a few essays among others. I finally finished digitizing this collection last week and the final count of items in this collection was 525. By digitizing these papers I spent most of my time scanning, so far this summer. While the collection has 525 items, I ended up scanning 1043 scans. And on an average I probably did about 40 scans per day.

An envelope, addressed to the Rev. Thomas Henry

An envelope, addressed to the Rev. Thomas Henry

Among the letters in this collection there are about 40 family letters, which have begun being transcribed, and being the English student that I am, what I find most interesting about the letters that are in this collection is the lack of uniform punctuation, grammar, and spelling throughout the letters. Within one letter a single word could be spelt different three times, and I really find that fascinating because of how structured language has become in today’s world. I feel like the difference between writing today and writing from say 1863 is a very interesting marker in how different things are today. It seems to me that the evolution of language is equally as important when studying history, as studying the evolution of other aspects of our society, as is more commonly looked at and taught in schools.  It seems that both today’s structure of writing and that of 150 years ago have their strengths and weaknesses. And reading these letters on thing that came clear to me is how these letters seem to flow much easier than a letter of today. Whereas in contrast a letter of today do have much more uniform writing, something that the correspondence of this collection more often than not, do not seem to have.

Thomas Henry - this oil painting hangs in the the Henry House Parlour

Thomas Henry – this oil painting hangs in the the Henry House Parlour

But overall, what I took away from looking at these correspondence letters is that while it changes frequently, writing is extremely important for communication, and while it can change mediums overtime, which is clear as I write this blog post, it still seems to maintain the same weight and importance for a man like Thomas Henry, as it does today.

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One thought on “Student Museum ‘Musings’ – Emily

  1. Pingback: Musing about our Student Musings | Oshawa Museum Blog

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