Without fail, every time I read letters sent to me containing a little piece of a person’s life story, I always get that profound feeling that somehow the letter should be preserved, and maybe what better way than at The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society Museum & Discovery Centre. Just little snippets of years’ worth of experiences, but there, disclosed in someone’s unique and fair hand. The diversity of lives as diverse as the stationery on which people send to me, from scrap paper to personalised letterheads or pretty cards, some expressing perhaps a solidarity for letter writing, or gems of wisdom, or simply the therapy of reminiscing. I’m always struck by how these letters feel so important, and that I really must find a way to keep them safe. Hence the idea for THLAS M&DC!
How could I ever make a Museum and Discovery Centre to The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society though? It feels like a pipe dream of the highest order. Where would it even be? (I’m currently thinking at our house, although don’t tell the family.) How on earth could it be funded? And would anyone care to come anyway? Despite occasionally possessing born-on-a-Wednesday vibes (I was born on a Wednesday) I do consider myself quite a “can do” person at heart and especially when excited about a project, but the logistics and the “actually what are you even going on about with your Society museum idea” do creep in, however the letters I receive always spur me on to draw up plans.
I don’t really want them published in books or read out to audiences (yes yes I know I’m getting ahead of myself, and anyway I don’t have the rights for that). I see the Museum and Discovery Centre more like a place of two halves – one, a space to come and write and send letters and all the joy that entails, and the other, an archive of the Society’s history and correspondence, each letter being a precious addition from a friend, member or stranger and there to be read in a moment in time. I might need consent for that too, but the experience would be totally non-digital. No copying or photographing or sharing letters outside the Centre. A letter chosen, a letter read, a letter replaced. You take what you take from it, carried in your head and heart. And honestly there are some amazing ones! No, I take that back. Every letter is an amazing one! It honestly swells my heart our community of letter writers throughout the Society and beyond. I can’t tell you the pride and joy I get from reading how the Society has touched people’s lives.
But yes, the nuts and bolts of The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society Museum & Discovery Centre does rather escape me at present, but I do hope one day it exists. People’s letters and the things they say make me think it really should.
P.S. Just to prove my point I spread out all the letters I have amassed in the garden for a little photoshoot and rummaging in the reply-pending box (actually three boxes) I pulled out a letter dated 14th December 2020 where part of it read “The first thing I did after joining the Society was to write letters to my goddaughters. I was so thrilled to receive the most beautiful reply from the youngest (aged 8). Her excitement leapt off the page, and her Mum tells me that receiving my letter ‘lit a fire in her.'” The letter, along with all of them, are completely treasured, museum or not.