In 2006, the ephemera of my life got a little overwhelming.
The proper definition of ephemera is not simply paper; it's a piece of paper that signifies an intangible, like a ticket to a film or a receipt from a meal. I had a lot of them and they weren't in any order and I was beginning to forget why I'd kept some of them in the first place. I'd pasted some stuff into albums, but they were both clunky and starting to fall apart. So I hit upon the idea to scan everything in and make a photobook, which would mean it was all digital imagery and would lie very flat. And I thought I should put my digital photographs in as well, and then I could add text with explanations.
Since then I've done one every year, until now I have it down to a science. Every Friday, when I have to scan documents for work anyway, I take all the "stuff" from the week -- meal receipts, tickets, programs from shows, letters from friends and family -- and I scan it in. I put the scans and digital photographs from the week into a file labeled "January" "February" and so on.
In December I go through all my images, make sure everything is cleaned up and edited, and put them month-by-month into the photo book program online. Some years I used the photobook program from Walgreens; lately I use Mixbook because it's slightly more expensive but gives much greater flexibility in terms of where you can put the pictures and what you can do with them. I have a row of yearbooks on my shelf, one for each year, each book only about a quarter of an inch thick. Though they have been getting slightly thicker each year.
I was telling a friend about this and ended up loaning her one of my photobooks because she wanted to see how it was done; it's been a big year for her, finishing grad school, getting married, and getting a new job, so she wanted to do a yearbook for herself as well. I thought you guys might like to see how it looks, too.
I've blurred some pages for privacy reasons -- you can totally tell which pages are my family photos -- but you get the general gist. There's my trip to the Chinatown New Year's parade in the first row, third column; that big Captain America shield below it is my ode to C2E2. My trip to Vegas with Mum has several pages, mostly in the third row. In the fifth row, first column is "exceptional (or exceptionally bad) food I ate this year" and in the third column of that row is all the letters I kept. I save text messages by "screencapping" my iPhone, and those have a spread in the third row, fourth column. Usually whatever novel I've published gets at least a few pictures, but I haven't added in Dead Isle yet.
This year's book runs to forty pages. Along with the other stuff I've mentioned, there's an entire page on "office life" (my cube, my colleagues, the first budget I ever did), two pages of letters, three that are simply "Beautiful pictures of Chicago", and one of photos I took at Mama Tickey's funeral.
The books help me remember what I was doing when, and they mean I don't need to save every little scrap of paper. They let me evaluate the year; how I did, what I did, what life changes took place for me. They're a weird, receipt-peppered documentation of my existence.
They're a lot of fun, too. :)