It's a bit of a funny time at the moment. I've recently had some sad family news and I can't help but feel a little distracted from work. Memories of my Grandparents, who both died in the last week, pop into my mind at inopportune moments. Occasionally tears prick my eyes. Work beckons.
I take the metro into work today which means I can read a little of "Doing Sensory Ethnography" by Sarah Pink on my way in. I'm enjoying the book so far, but rather desperate to find some solutions to problems I'm having thinking through how probes can capture the sensory elements of experience. After re-organising some of my travel plans for CHI 2011 with the help of one of the research secretaries, I pick up a set of 100 beautifully designed leaflets to hopefully promote the PATINA project to users of the Tyne and Wear archives. I'm interested in understand the motivations and experiences of family tree historians as a contrast to the experiences of trained researchers, and academics. Part of understanding these experiences will be derived through my own research around my family tree, and today I visit the archives to both drop in the leaflets and also to research a little bit of my own family tree. Luckily although I haven't booked a microfilm reader there are several free so I'm able to get straight down to the business of looking for my Granny's baptism record, alongwith my Great Granny and Granddad's marriage certificate and my Great Granny's burial record. There's a particular buzz in finding the marriage certificate, seeing the handwriting of my Great Grandparents, alongwith my Great, Great Grandparents. The tentative hand of my Great Granmother, and the strong and slightly irregular signature of my Great Grandfather. It makes me feel closer to them, like somehow seeing their handwriting makes them seem more real. I would like to be able to touch their signatures, pull my fingertips over the top of where their fingers once were, but alas this is not possible through a microfilm reader. Their condition is marked as "Bachelor" and "Spinster". My Great Grandmother was a spinster at the age of 26. I chuckle at this. I decide to print the marriage certificate out, but the printout loses even more of the detail, looks even more abstracted and impersonal than the microfilm version.