Remember the scrap book and the photo album

There was a time when most self-respecting children collected something.  It could be stamps, it could be coins, it could even be cuttings out of newspapers.  If it was cuttings then they usually went into the scrap book.  If it was a collection of photos, then they went into the album.

(Of course it is possible that one day soon I am going to have to write a piece which starts, “Remember the newspaper?” but for the moment I’ll assume that you do.)

We don’t see scrap books or photo albums much these days, because everything can be collected digitally.  But more than that, the scrap book tended to be used to collect things that were slightly unusual – everything related to a particular person, a sport, an idea, a club, a TV series…

And in this regard the scrap book made a lot of sense because years later you could come back to the scrap book or the album and instantly get the hang of what it is about.  The articles, the pictures, they all had something to do with this one person or concept or club.

What’s more, come back to it later and you could well find yourself looking at a valuable historical document.  The scrap book might be a collection of information that even if it has not vanished from the archives, is at least collected here in one place, reflecting one contemporary person’s viewpoint, thus both giving the research an insight and simultaneously saving the researcher an awful lot of time.  The photo album would be more personal but none the less valuable for that. 

Which is why I know that we have a fair number of scrap books, and a few photo albums stored at the warehouses at Admiral Document Storage.

But this thought about scrap books and albums takes me further than that. For as I mentioned above, we also have the issue of digitalisation and that is transforming the way in which people consider what is important in their lives.

For what has happened these days is that instead of focussing on external events, people focus more and more on the detail of their own lives. They record their lives and display the detail on places like Facebook. 

And I do mean detail. I’ve watched people go out for a meal, and when the food arrives take a picture of it for display on their social media of choice. And I wonder why?

A meal to me is a social occasion – a chance to have nice food in a convivial environment, and share the conversation and whole occasion with the people you are with. To enjoy not only the food and drink, but also total event.

But what I see today are people who don’t do this at all. They get into the restaurant, and start communicating on their phones. Which makes me ask, why didn’t they go to the meal with these others with whom they are chatting?

Back with Facebook however, the details of lives are recorded. And this is so different from, for example, the holiday scrap book. And dare I say it, the holiday scrap book was always made up of the more interesting and important moments. Who will ever want to go back to the collection of details on Facebook other than to wonder at why on earth all this information was collected?

The hotel, and the pool, the historic monuments, the children playing on the beach… in short everything that was utterly unusual and never to be repeated – all that was recorded by photos put in albums.  Not the plate of food that has just been placed in front of one.

So yes, I do feel sad about the passing of the physical scrap book and photo album and I am glad that we have some in storage (something I only know because a few of our customers have chosen to share with me details of what we are holding in their boxes and shelves.)

Maybe they will be of interest to these individuals later in life as they reflect on earlier days, or maybe to their children or grandchildren, or maybe even to historians.  I hope so.

But what I do know is that what is within each of those scrap books and albums is more interesting than pictures of what one had to eat last night!

That’s enough of my rant.  If you have anything that you want stored in the West Midlands please do call us on 0800 810 1125.

Alternatively, take a look at our website for more information.

Edward Snowden stole vast amounts of secret data with a very cheap simple bit of hardware. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Just around a year ago Edward J. Snowden removed some highly classified documents from the digital files of the National Security Agency in the USA.  He did it apparently using a fairly basic digital tool.  One year on there is still no technology in place to stop it happening again.

The piece of technology Mr Snowden used was a Web Crawler – the same piece of technology that trawls the internet looking for (for example) email addresses.  If you ever get some junk mail and wonder how someone got your email details, it would be through some irritating person using a Web Crawler.

Since then, the NSA says that it has installed security upgrades… although not everywhere.  Meanwhile no one is saying why the NSA could not detect why a Web Crawler was able to work away through its systems over such a period of time without being spotted.

And that really is the heart of the problem.

Now during the fall out of the affair, the intelligence expert James Clapper suggested that American intelligence agencies do not collect information on domestic communications. He has since retracted that but in doing so said that the US cannot “guarantee that we’ll never have another Edward Snowden.”

All of which is rather interesting – but it seems to me to by pass one fundamental issue.  The reason that all the private conversations could be tapped, and that the American secrets could be leaked, was because everything was in digital format.

To put it another way, and very bluntly, if you want to send me a secret, send it by letter. OK, if you must, put it in code, but basically send it through the post. Virtually nothing coming through the post in terms of being a simple letter, is checked.  Suspect packages are of course looked at carefully, but within the post, not much more.

So let’s imagine that America had not had all this digital information in terms of emails, phone calls and the like, but that instead it had had lots of data in terms of printed and handwritten material.  What then?

Two things in fact.  First, it is unlikely that anyone would have physically broken into the NSA centre at Fort Meade, Maryland and got away with it.  And even if there had been an inside job going on, it would have taken 100 lifetimes to find anything helpful among all the paperwork.

Thus my thought is, if you want to transmit and later store something, the best thing to do is to put it on paper and store it in a safe storage facility like Admiral.   At the same time it is probably a good idea to have a decent index system, also kept on paper, and maybe have that coded in case it falls into the wrong hands.

Oh yes and you might like to encrypt all that paperwork – although that is probably overkill.  After all no one thinks paper contains secrets any more.  If they did, they would probably be searching our letters.

You can read more about Admiral Document Storage on our website at

Alternatively, please call us on 0800 810 1125 for more information.