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Personal Notes: “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives” at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York

In a world where twitter, facebook, and personal blogs keep log of our everyday thoughts and experiences, we might say that we are more interconnected than ever and that these simple virtual acts are very much like keeping a personal journal. A new exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York reveals that this act of intimate storytelling existed long before modern technology made its mark.

Diary of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (1862)

The exhibition displays over 60 objects where an individual has scribbled about his personal everyday existence, feelings and thoughts. These include scraps of paper from a 9/11 rescue worker, notes in the margins of a 17th century almanac, the intimate diary of Anaïs Nin, the marriage journal of Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne, the diary Sir Walter Scott began in order to maintain his memories for  “my family and the public,” and the centerpiece of the exhibition: A seminal journal of Henry David Thoreau.

“I started thinking, To what degree are status updates, Twitter feeds, and blogs kinds of diaries?” says Christine Nelson,   curator of the exhibition in a recent interview with Vogue. “Because a diary is really just a place to talk about what’s on your mind as the days pass. Life builds up. You live a little, you write a little, and that’s exactly what’s going on with these new forms.”

Beautifully intimate, the exhibition reveals a human being’s constant need to document their lives and preserve waking meaningful moments through words.

“The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives” at the Morgan Museum and Library in New York through May 22nd, 2011

 

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