Last night I went to a "Deepening the Conversation" presentation at the Queensland State Library. The Changing Face of Wartime Correspondence was organised as part of the program supporting the Of Love and War exhibition that is currently on. The conversation included a panel of ex-military personnel and military partners who spoke about their relationships, modes of communication, the effects changes in communication technology have had on correspondence and the archiving of memories.
I loved Jim Morris' tale of how he met his wife. He was already in Vietnam when a friend asked a friend if she knew anyone who would write to Jim while he was away. Jim started a pen pal relationship with a woman named Colene and as the letters came and went he few in love with her. He proposed before he even met her and they were married four weeks after he returned to Australia. Link to Jim's story - scroll down for short film.
There was also a wonderful "old timer", George Buckingham, who at eighty-eight had a lifetime of stories to tell, including how he was kicked out of the Australian Army for signing up underage and how he subsequently ended up in the Navy and in Z force, special ops. George told wonderful stories that contrasted the tales of the partner of a currently serving pilot, an army nurse who was deployed to the Gulf War and East Timor twice and Jim who was in Vietnam in 1968.
The idea of how to retain contemporary wartime correspondence was an issue that has practical application across a range of disciplines. We have a draw full of postcards from relatives in World War One and Two and my own Father burnt all his letters from Vietnam. I also kept thinking about writers archives; it was a real joy to read through Ginsberg's letters and journals when I was at Stanford and I wonder what the archives of writers now will look like in years to come. I remember reading how long it took to hack into Douglas Adams' computer after he died suddenly. I have also seen this topic coming up on some blog lately: about printing and archiving emails, making print versions of blogs and utilising archive quality DVDs to store data etc.
It was an interesting and thought provoking evening, timely also in light of Remembrance Day.