Help preserve history by writing letters says Royal BC Museum

British Columbians being encouraged to write more letters
WATCH: The Royal BC Museum is hoping to enourage people to write a letter this week. As Kylie Stanton reports, with more of us texting and emailing, writing appears to be a dying art.

The Royal BC Museum in Victoria is hoping its Letter Writing Week event will help preserve history and allow people to re-engage with the art of writing letters.

“I used to write letters all the time, and then about six years ago, my last letter writing friend got a Facebook account and the letters slowly stopped in favor of updates and the occasional message,” said Kim Gough, the learning program developer responsible for event at the museum. She started the event in 2014 and is hoping to build upon its success this year.

“On the rare occasion I do receive a handwritten letter, it brings more delight than an email,” said Gough.

The museum provides the paper, materials and postage, and people are encouraged to take a moment, sit down and write a letter to someone. The museum will then mail the letters.

Story continues below advertisement

“In our case as a museum and archives, handwritten letters also serve a role in the historical record,” said Gough. “In addition to books, the BC Archives houses government documents, films, audio recordings, maps and photographs – it is a wonderful resource of letters. All letters more than 100 years old are open and some of which are digitized for easy access.”

“We have, for example, Emily Carr’s correspondence and it shows us her unique personality through her spelling, liberties with sentence structure and her penmanship.”

Stephanie Firby, the manager at the Regional Assembly of Text in Victoria, said letter writing is still important in our technology-driven society because it reminds and forces us to slow down and practice some patience. “We stop and actually think about our words before committing them to paper, instead of shooting off a quick email or hitting a delete button,” she said. “While sending a letter and waiting for your friend to get it and receive their response takes a bit of time, having that tangible letter in your hand and knowing that a friend took time and effort to send it to you and are eagerly checking their mailbox everyday for your response, it feels so much more personal than a text or email.”

Gough said, while she thinks letter writing is at risk of being lost, we still share our thoughts every day, just in a different way.

“Last year, I remember a young man in his 20s sitting down at the table and he asked how to address an envelope – he had never done it before,” she said. “It would be a shame, though, to never see a loved one’s handwriting, or to get a handwritten love note to put under your pillow.”

Story continues below advertisement

We asked readers on our Facebook page if they still write letters and many said they still love it.

“I love writing letters. I never stopped, and I still occasionally get letters in the mail back,” said Shiianne Ramkay. “I love choosing different [stationery], and the pen colour, and deciding on either printing or cursive (yes! Some youngins can and will write in cursive!). It’s great. I even still journal and write my poetry and stories by hand.”

Rebecca Christiansen said she loves writing and receiving letters. “My best friend moved to Texas recently, and although we text each other constantly, we also send written letters and small gifts that can fit in the envelopes,” she said. “It’s so much fun, more people should do it!”

WATCH: From August, 2013:

Main Street’s Regional Assembly of Text offers nostalgia through a letter

Fri, Aug 2 – Nowadays when we receive a letter in the mail rather than the usual bills and flyers, the feeling is something truly special…no matter our age or who we are. For anyone wanting to create that experience for a friend or relative, there’s a place right in Vancouver that offers a chance to do it in a unique way. Mana Mansour has more.