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How Will Your Diary Help Historians?

April 9, 2010

Do you keep a diary, journal or daily blog? I often think about how researchers hundreds of years from now will use these items to document what life was like during our time.

When I was young, I briefly kept a diary and although I don?t think historians will consider who I had a crush on in the sixth grade as historically significant, these first-hand accounts can be a goldmine of information.

For example, on this date in 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. This event has been the topic of hundreds of books written over the years. However, I think looking at the diaries and letters from people at that time can often show a unique perspective. I took a peek at some our diaries and letters on this date (click on them to see the full-size image):

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Suzanne Hahn is director of reference services for the IHS Collections and Library. She loves helping people find the information they seek and is perhaps the only librarian ever to get shushed for laughing too loud in a library.

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