Letters from the Library

A love postcard

It appeared all of a sudden and immediately caught my attention because postcards are not a very common element among the material we preserve in the archives; the historical and social memory of our community. However, there it was, showing me, on its illustrated face, a group of camels crossing a road somewhere on a deserted spot. Nothing too special. I wouldn't have had any reason to keep it, if I hadn't turned it over and found, written in English, a message that started with "Dear M."

It was a love postcard. A woman who had met a man — probably an old member of the CDF — during a research project in a country in the Near East, and had had a brief but intense story with him. Her words were those of someone who had loved and who knew for a fact that she would never see the subject of her feelings again. It was the sweetest "goodbye" and "thank you" I had ever read. A true jewel.

And there I was, twenty years later, ignoring the identity of the protagonists and their final destiny, yet fully aware of the huge value of that piece of reality I had in my hands. Needless to say, I decided to keep the postcard. Those of us who work with cultural heritage, knowledge, information or historical artifacts, need to be reminded from time to time; that the elements we recover, organize, make visible and disseminate; were, are and will be part of a story.

A human story, with people who write to thank the love they received. Others that keep those messages, despite knowing the unavoidable effects of distance, time and oblivion. Maybe for someone like me to find these letters and remember—or learn— that life is those little, big moments. And that libraries, archives and museums are meant to rescue and treasure those fragments. Fragments that hide behind a book, a portrait or a clay pot.

Or a postcard with camels crossing a sandy road.

The ‘Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands’, in French ‘Fondacion Charles Darwin  pour les Iles Galapagos’, Association Internationale sans but lucrative (AISBL), has its registered office at Avenue Louise 54, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Trade Registry # 0409.359.103

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