Sunday, October 10, 2010

Peterborough Archive

The first phase of this project took place in a storefront in downtown Peterborough. I posted letters daily in the window and emailed weekly summaries:

VOICES AT HAND - A Spring Cleaning project
The Blue Tomato Art Shop 
168 Hunter Street West, Peterborough 
March 11th – April 10th, 2010 

Week 1 Update 

Hi Everyone, 

What an engaging range of stories and personalities that have emerged this past week! By end of day on Friday I’d worked my way through close to 200 letters. Among my favourites are a letter jointly written by five young cadets to hook up with female staff of a seaside resort in the summer of '51, a pen pal letter of introduction from a Twiggy look- alike with a “huge crush on Davey Jones” and volumes of cringe worthy notes passed in class in the ‘90s I’m looking forward to what this week brings. 

Now that March break is over I will be keeping more regular hours, sitting in the window from 10:30 – 2:30 Monday to Friday. Contributions are welcome any time and can be left in my mailbag. I plan to continue posting a letter of the day in the window so do check them out. Also this week I am going to begin reading on request. Stop by and choose a category to experience everything from the big news, to the small news, to the juicy news.    

Hope to see you, 
Wendy                                                                                   P.S. Identities are protected 

Week 2 Update 

A marriage proposal; a letter from a soldier in a WWII POW camp; a sampling from volumes of father to son correspondence written every other day for a decade; and an end of summer lament typed on the inner sleeve of a record album were among the featured letters of the day.   

History, Love Letters and Missing You were the most requested categories for readings with new additions, Best Friends Forever, Taking a Stand and The Word From Snod gaining in popularity by Friday. 

Week two’s readings in the window yielded three new categories and pushed numbers of letters well up over 600. And in addition to lots of you visiting, Voices at Hand benefited from media coverage in the Examiner and on Chex News at 6:00 on Wednesday, March 24th.  

This week I am hoping some of you will read to me to help envision future phases of the project. Do drop by. Voices at Hand continues at the Blue Tomato Art Shop until April  
Final Week 

Hi All,  

My favourites from week three are really too numerous to list, but I will try: 

A letter describing an ex-pat Christmas celebration in Uganda, circa 1972; a young woman’s account on the bohemian fashions in Paris in the ‘50s; a series of letters written in Germany in the 30’s depicting nationalism’s hold and a joyous recounting of a reunion of friends and family in the Channel Islands five days after liberation day. Add to this a letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail and love letters from the fifties through to the nineties (when it would appear people stopped writing letters) and you have but sampling of last week in the window.   

I’m up to 833 letters and into the home stretch of Voices at Hand. Contributions are welcome until Saturday April 10th when I pack it all up. Do come in and perhaps leave a letter or two before then. It promises to be another engaging week!   

Hope to see you, 


Hi all, 

Voices at Hand wrapped up last week with a sprint finish that pushed the number of letters up over 1600.  Among those featured in the window were two postcards, one with New Years greetings from 1908; another recounting travels in the 20’s and a note detailing a teen’s close encounter with her sister’s boyfriend (at the party her parents never found out about).    

Many of my favourites from earlier in the residency made repeat appearances in the finale window last Friday, as did this dispatch describing a big purchase one September:  

This new mountain bike is something of a wonder to me. I don’t know if you have ever seen one of these bikes?” 

Other chance finds cried out to be posted. One, dating from the early '80s requests return correspondence and cautions:  

Remember, letter writing is a dying art and we must do our best to keep up the tradition. Who knows maybe our grandchildren won’t even know what the word letter means. The horror, the horror!”     

Another letter, a typed fax, from a journalist laments his loss of letter writing skills.  

“It’s funny to discover that even though I spend my days as a writer I have lost the art of letter crafting. I used to write a pretty good letter, but it seems journalism has destroyed my ability to personalize my writing.” 

A suite of letters written in the 90’s in which the writer flip-flops between forms. His first announces. "I am now on email, if you feel so inclined drop me your address." His second, and email, proclaims, "This email stuff stinks, I can now sympathize, it's a crap way of getting a Dear John." Still smarting from losing the girl, but written in long hand, the third letter embraces snail mail.  

And just as I was leaving on Friday a former letter carrier delivered a letter addressed to Santa Claus. Now there is a guy you don’t text!  

That’s all for now. Many, many thanks to everyone who participated, visited me in the window or responded to my missives.  

All the best, 


P.S. Plans are in the works for a reprise of Voices at Hand, perhaps in window near you! Do let me know if you can think of one suitable for a 5-10 day residency. 

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