Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Message in a Box

The Freer | Sackler Archives is blessed to have many wonderful volunteers.  Many have been working for the archives for years. They all have collections that they come in every week to work on and care for.  One volunteer, the lovely Charlene, has been work on the Pauline B. and Myron S. Falk, Jr. Papers for several years. She is currently organizing all of the Falk correspondence. Recently, she stumbled upon some truly wonderful letters both sent and received by the Falks.  

They are filled with humor, life, and wonderful use of language.  One can’t help but stop to hear what neat letter Charlene has found on a particular day.  You get the impression that the Falks were warm, intelligent, and entertaining people to be around.

Pauline Falk worked with the Lincoln School for many years.

These letters have given us something more precious that a window into the Falks lives.  They have given us an idea of how diversely and uniquely individuals expressed themselves to one another. You can picture the people writing these letters as if they are in the room.  Furthermore, it reminds us how fun, complex, and different the English language can be.  

Excerpt from Mrs. Pauline Falk's 50th High School Reunion.   It took place in 1978 for the class of 1928.  Several of the classmates could not attend the reunion, but then sent delightful notes to be read at the reunion.

In yet another way, it makes us more aware that the art of letter writing is dying. We have email. We have Facebook. We have Twitter.  We have an endless amount of devices to keep us connected.   We communicate instantly and uniquely, but in a different more abrupt way.

The written word seems to be fighting a losing battle in the war of communication.   This is an era of abbreviated thought, where pausing to contemplate and write a personal letter and send it seems as foreign as an alien planet.

Letter thanking Pauline Falk for all her dedicated service to the Lincoln School, 1953.

Of course, email can be and is used to write thoughtful letters, but more often than not, the language of email seems to have given way to short perfunctory business sentences.  The idea of allowing one’s thoughts to wander deeply before putting words down is almost lost.

Perhaps we should all take the time to pause and breathe before we write and send our next email (or, perhaps, even a physical letter) to a friend.

Lara Amrod
Freer|Sackler Archives

1 comment:

  1. Lara I love this post!
    And I am very much in agreement with you on the dying art of letter writing.