(Researcher's Note: this Guide entry is more along the lines of an extended introduction rather than an entry. It might serve a small purpose for those who have not looked on the items they collect in the same light as that in which I now see them. I write this only after having rummaged through and repacked a substantial amount of my life's debris in the storage building in the yard behind the house.)
As cliched as it may seem, I've kept a Sex Pistols t-shirt safely tucked away in a box within another box that sits at the back of a storage building behind several dozen other large boxes containing other essentially useless pieces of my life's journey. Postcards liberated from a hotel in Hawaii, newspaper clippings about which I have long since forgotten the reason for their cutting in the first place, books I would not want to read (or read again) on a dare, letters I would not want the wife to ever find from flames long since smothered by the years and a widening backside. Why keep all these pieces of 'life'? Sentimentality? Posterity? I am mocked every time I rummage through these boxes for some trinket believed to remain in the depths of storage. I am mocked by the items I can not discard. They simply say to me, 'Kindly pack me better this time, just look at how wrinkled I've become and would you want your son to see the way you've mishandled me by opening so many bottles of beer around the hem right here?' and so on.
What we as humans are unaware of is our ability to create sentience within the objects around us. The longer said objects are with us, the stronger and more wilful this sentience becomes. 'Wilful' is meant here in the sense these objects are in turn becoming capable of instigating their will on humans. However, the goals of these inanimate objects are very few — apart from a few radical t-shirts and scented letters that feel cheated of the real joie de vivre, the only long-term plan for any object is not to be discarded.
Photographs are the the most intelligent of inanimate objects. They absorb surrounding consciousness for years, spanning generations. And they are hardly ever discarded. Instead, they are lost in fires or during moves to the country, or stolen by spiteful cousins who get left out of wills, whereupon they are usually burned in fires. Ask anyone with a portfolio of their family's history from the advent of the Kodak to the pictures they took this afternoon of the napping dog - ask them why they retain these snapshots so dear. Surely the majority of the pictures they carry in large trunks from place to place constitute the chronicling of a dozen score lives, one of which is usually not their own. Yet these folk gasp and shudder at the thought of losing this 'heritage', as even I do simply writing about it. We lay the blame on sentimentality, posterity, 'roots', or simply the amusing way that Aunt Harriet never fails to blink at the moment of exposure. The blame is never laid where it should be — on the sentience of photographs.
I would not want to suggest that photographs are either sentient or imbued with even an artifical intelligence by top goverment-sanctioned scientific think tanks. At least, not without a cigarette and an unshielded bulb hanging from a darkened ceiling. Even then, lies would be easier to swallow than the truth...
I do so love the knick-knacks I've kept over the years. I would probably not donate large pieces of anatomy to preserve them, but the feelings I would experience at their loss would be very difficult to overcome, even long after their departure, I feel. Tack on another point for inanimate sentience, who now lead by a score of 2-0 in the closing seconds.
Next time you find a box of those items that bring back fond memories of a childhood from long ago, you might stop and think for a moment if you are the one doing the remembering...