Implanted Nostalgia

One of the side-projects I work on for Norwescon is the convention’s historical archives, my own little effort to preserve as much as possible of the convention’s history.

The project started a little while after I took over as webmaster, when I was poking around in our website’s directory structure and discovered a whole trove of old documents that someone in the past had scanned and stashed away. It seemed like a waste to have them sitting hidden away where nobody else could see them, so I did a little digging, found a good software package to use to manage the archives (Omeka, designed by and for librarians to manage digital archives), and started building the site.

I’ve long since worked through all the original material I found, so now most of what I do is adding new material as it’s produced for the current convention year by year. But every so often I get sent a scan or even some physical artifacts, and I get them processed and added to the collection.

Part of what I do is extracting the text of any text documents (progress reports, newsletters, flyers, program books, etc.) into HTML so that the text lives on the archive page itself as well as in the linked .pdf (as an example, here’s the Norwescon 11 Progress Report from January 1989). Not only is this better for searching, but it’s also far more accessible for anyone browsing the archives.

Of course, to do this often requires running PDFs through an OCR process to recognize the text, and OCR is often an error-prone process, especially when dealing with multi-decade old items. And, of course, OCR output is just a plain text dump, without any formatting. So, to get a good final output for the HTML version, I skim through the output, correcting typos and adding Markdown formatting before converting to HTML and adding to the database.

Which means I’ve read every single one of these items.

And now I have this weird form of pseudo-nostalgia for years and years worth of conventions that I didn’t actually attend.

I moved down to Seattle in 2001, discovered Norwescon in 2006 with Norwescon 29, and joined the ConCom in 2010 for Norwescon 33 — but I now have all these “memories” of when the con was at a different hotel, or when this or that event was added or removed, and things that this or that person who I know because they are still involved with the con did years ago, long before I was ever involved.

I’ve got to admit, though — it’s kind of hilariously on-brand to be self-implanting false memories of a science-fiction convention.