Be forewarned: There’s an exhibit now on display in the Burns Library that may make some members of the Boston College community feel old – perhaps ancient.

Through Oct. 6, Burns is hosting “Being Social Before Social Media,” which takes visitors back to what some consider to be the halcyon days before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—and all those other apps and websites that now seem ubiquitous—when, as the exhibition description notes, "we used telegrams, snapshots, postcards, letters, and scrapbooks to communicate with each other, organize our daily lives, and preserve memories.”

'Being Social Before Social Media' poster

The materials, drawn from the Burns’ archival collections, aim to “connect some of our legacy material culture with the apps of today.”

“Being Social Before Social Media” is the handiwork of the Burns Library University Archives team of Amy Braitsch, Shelley Barber, Lynn Moulton, Annalisa Moretti, and Stephanie Hall. Moulton recently answered a few questions about the exhibit:

What was the inspiration for “Being Social”?

While brainstorming about how the archives could contribute to the exhibit program at the Burns Library, I realized that some of my favorite formats have been more or less been replaced by technology and social media. I thought it would be fun to explore this idea and remind – or introduce – a modern audience how we used to interact. You never know if an idea will pan out in the research; we think this one did. 

As you and your colleagues put the exhibit together, did you find yourselves reflecting on your own memories of “being social” before the arrival of social media? 

Absolutely. We drew on our own experiences, as well inspiration from our collections at Burns Library. We laughed about things we used to do. Remember waiting a week for photos to come back from the film lab, usually with duplicates to share with friends? Not to mention being stuck with two copies of some terrible snapshots that no one wanted! We all do this instantly on our phones now. 

Given the pace of technology, do you think Burns will someday hold an historical exhibition on “quaint” old forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter et al)?

Sure. Remember MySpace? I think in 20 years these particular platforms, and probably even the app-driven world we live in, will have moved on to something new. One of our current challenges in special collections is determining how to document and preserve the contemporary forms of being social before they vanish. Some are already lost. 

–Sean Smith / University Communications