Email records to show slice of Australian life

With email replacing letters as a way of keeping in touch, an Australian museum on Tuesday said it wants to stop a valuable archive of daily life from being lost with the touch of a delete button.

Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is asking Australians to send them all kinds of emails and replies, including embarrassing messages the sender immediately regrets, or declarations of love sent to the wrong people.

The emails will be collected and kept as an archive of Australian life in 2008 in the same the way library collections of hand-written letters give a glimpse of life in the past.

“What we see is that people use email both as a form of written communication, but also like a conversation,” email provider Kate Beddoe, from project partner Windows Live Hotmail, told Australian radio on Tuesday.

“So we’re hoping to capture both those casual discussions people are having via email,” she added.

Powerhouse Museum curator Matthew Connell said email had changed the way people work, communicate and use language.

“But we have another concern about email. How much of what we write today will be available to our kids tomorrow?” he said.

He said the details of daily life in emails are often more revealing than the thoughts of a famous person, and can be interesting and revealing about a country’s culture.

Connell said the museum would delete the names on emails so people could feel comfortable about sharing the personal communications.

He wants people to send emails of complaint, personal and touching emails, family discussions, and emails that leave the sender red-faced due to typing mistakes or from sending personal information to the wrong people.

The project’s website includes examples of the kinds of emails wanted, including a declaration of love from a new worker to her boyfriend which was accidentally sent to a fellow worker.

The project runs for six weeks. The museum will keep printed and electronic copies of the emails in an archive, and will post the most interesting ones on the project’s website.
- Reuters

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