Is the Diary Dead?

by Christine Nelson

People seem to assume that because I’m a manuscripts curator I must be constantly wringing my hands over the demise of the handwritten artifact. But I don’t feel there’s any inconsistency in cherishing the records of the past while embracing the tools of the present. A couple of years ago I curated an exhibition about diary keeping (, and this week the New York Times asked me to muse on the future of the diary. Are we losing the capacity to be honest? (wait, were we ever honest?) Have we ceased to value privacy? (wait, were diaries ever purely private?) Will we still have valuable personal records in 2050 (wait, aren’t we writing more than ever? and aren’t more of us writing?) No doubt there is still room for debate.

From the Morgan show: An entry from the diary of a young Charlotte Brontë. Credit: Graham Haber

Christine Nelson, the Drue Heinz curator of literary and historical manuscripts and head of interpretive strategy at the Morgan Library and Museum, is a longtime friend and supporter of the Obsolescing blog. 

One response to “Is the Diary Dead?

  1. As a grad student I did some research into 19th C women’s diaries for a prof, and not that much later I began to see lots of journals (before they started being called blogs) by women. I gasped at the degree of intimacy of their lives that were revealed and wondered if they just didn’t care, or didn’t realize the public nature of the net at the time. Since then it’s been wonderful to watch these journals morph into blogs, see how some cope with privacy issues, figure out their writing etc. The diary is dead – long live the diary.

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