A physical history

As part of my preparation for my PhD I’ll be spending a fair amount of time over the next few months thinking about and observing how people create, record, interact with, various types of archives and histories. An almost ubiquitous sight in Australian family homes (and possibly around the world?): The Height Chart. Usually on a door frame, usually in or near the kitchen (which is an interesting space in its own right for the interactions that it encourages). A record of the family’s physical development – sometimes including guests, friends, even pets – the height chart feels temporary – written in pencil (because pencil sticks to paint? Or because it can be removed easily?) , each entry¬†is temporary – soon to be superseded, out of date as soon as it is made. It seems as much about the act of creation and comparison as it is about keeping a record: who even looks at the chart when they are not adding a new entry? What makes the height chart interesting is that it is one of the few places where you can see a singular record of someone’s development (albeit on a very specific metric) – from childhood all the way through to adulthood. I can’t think of another. (Maybe photo album collections come close). It is a specific and personal kind of history, attached to the frame of the building itself. You don’t take the chart with you when you move, in all likelihood it will be painted over, ready for the next family to record their progress.

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Archives