Skills from my grandmother - how the past informs the present

My digital life contains many skills from my grandmother who was born in the last century. She was a great storyteller, she collected things and she shared news with her neighbours.

If my grandmother was alive today she’d be on Facebook every day.

Storytelling was a way of passing family history from one generation to the next. Each time the story developed and became funnier, or sadder. Every story had a beginning, a middle and an end, a range of characters and if there wasn’t a moral at the end, there could be enlightenment. The stories were engaging, entertaining and educational. Born in a pre-TV era, everyday life was perceived as being simpler, less complicated, but it had its trials. From walking 6 miles to school in the morning and 6 miles back in the afternoon. Shopping daily for provisions (no refrigerators) to making her own clothes. Home-made food from jam (which I still make), growing vegetables (I do that too) and fresh eggs from chickens (I have 5 hens).

The stories worked and there was always the call at the end to ‘tell us another’.

Collecting things or curation as it’s recognised today, was a sign of an austere upbringing. With no spare money for ornaments, home decor or objets d’art, every collected piece was a treasure. Empty tins recycled as storage containers, jars with missing lids were covered with plaster of Paris and shells from the seashore; upcycling plain vessels into exquisite pots, often painted with an aunt’s nail varnish (it was always bright pink). Curation today is the craft of seeing what others have created and re-purposing or recycling that content. A far cry from a disused jam jar.

Sharing news with our connections is a key tenet of social media. We tell stories, curate words from others and share via our social networks. My grandmother’s connections were her neighbours, her church and her family.  Whilst it was a comparatively small social network, the good stories went viral, the best curated items were admired by many and stories were shared at every opportunity. 

If she’d been born into my digital age, she’d be pinning pictures of freshly made preserves, tweeting when the hens had laid more eggs and adding a Facebook 'Like' when friends had finished darning a pile of hand-knitted woollen socks. The original up-cycler honing skills for the future.