This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

A collection of content, not objects

Like many people, I am a collector. I like old maps, and old photos. My favorite collection is old photos of Phoenix, Arizona. And like all collectors, I can never have enough. I like to talk about my collection, I like to show it off. My collection has thousands of items, and continues to grow every day.

But it's a collection of content, not objects, which puzzles many people. Please let me explain.

I don't have boxes of old photos and maps. My collection is made of up copies. In the modern world, that means high-resolution scans. The objects themselves are meaningless to me. I derive enjoyment from looking at the photos, and the maps. That is, their content. And even before the days of computer scanners, I was doing this.

That makes my collection, well, worthless. Before the days of scanners, they were xerox copies. I have to admit I like scanners a whole more, as they capture images, even maps, beautifully. And all of the images that I have are scanned in as close to 2048ppi as I can, optimized in Photoshop. Once I have my copy, I have no further interest in the original. I give them away, I send them to historical societies. I have no interest in storing originals. I am interested in the content.

Today I will be re-reading Omar Turney's 1929 essay on Prehistoric Irrigation in the Phoenix Area. No, I don't have the original, nor would I want it. I've handled old documents and not only do they smell bad, they make my fingers itch (it's the acid in the paper). I have it as a digital file that I can read at my comfort on my ereader. And his map I can view on my nice, big, 21" iMac and zoom in like crazy.

When I talk to people who may have precious documents, I ask if I can scan them in. Of course, most people are interested in preserving the object, but I just want the content. Sad to say, I know that there are many people who, in the interest of preserving objects, are destroying the content. That is, these precious documents are being put in boxes, and placed on shelves, and being forgotten. And that means lost.

So, I will continue my collection of content, although many people have no idea why I'm doing it. However, there are many people who do really understand, and I appreciate that. And they know that I can share my collection without losing anything.

Photo above:  looking north on Central from Jefferson in the 1890s, Phoenix, Arizona. 2048ppi image, high res image here:
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