This weekend I attended a workshop on conserving family books, photographs and other objects held at the Indian Museum in Kolkata. The facilitator demonstrated ways in which we can extend the longevity of materials like paper and film, taking care of them using readily available tools.

My biggest takeaway from the workshop was a renewed realisation of the amount of historically significant objects we might have stored away in old cupboards and bookshelves – objects that piece together stories of times long gone. 

These stories may not find a place in the history books, but they live among us, in the folds of our great grandmothers’ saris, and in the yellowing pages of books our parents bought when they were in college. 

And the stories could be about many things – social realities, economic crises, eating habits, leisure activities, and even the environment. 

Changing Natures is a project that invites people from all over the world to contribute to a digital collection that tracks environmental changes over generations. Contributions range from personal stories to pictures of objects that reflect the human impact on the environment. My favourite is a game about flowers from 1930 that someone bought at a garage sale in France. Then there’s this amusing respectful insect catcher that someone from Germany uploaded, observing that his grandmother (a champion among fly swatters) would likely find it “useless and ineffective”. 

I’ve been wondering what to upload to the collection. Perhaps a picture of the tiny jam jar in which I stored water from the Mediterranean Sea from my trip to Egypt in 2008. Or an anecdote of when a bee flew into my face as I cycled, causing me to crash into a wall and chip my front tooth (ouch). 

Let me know what you think, and I look forward to seeing your uploads in the collection next time I visit Changing Natures. 


P.S. Recommend Just One Thing to your friends and family so they can add us to their collection of things to look forward to every day.