February 22, 2015

When did we learn to trust e-mail?

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — susanwoodland @ 10:52 pm

Sherri Greenbach was an executive in the Development Division at UJA-Federation in 1994 and 1995.  She may have worked at UJA-Federation longer than these 2 years but just one box of her files has become part of the the archives project.  These files document Sherri’s work planning fundraising events for the Women’s Division campaign.  It appears that Sherri was primarily involved in fundraising with the Lawyer’s Division, but none of those files have surfaced to date.

In her work on the Women’s Division campaign during this time, Sherri corresponded regularly with Jodi Schwartz, a lay leader involved with a particular event in March of 1995.  In addition to details of these fundraising events in Sherri’s files, it is also possible to identify the moment a new technology was taking hold in the UJA-Federation offices.

This document is a fax cover sheet from March 7th ….

Sherri's cover sheet for her March 7th faxed e-mail

Sherri’s cover sheet for her March 7th faxed e-mail


Sherri wrote in her note on the cover sheet, “I am not yet overly confident in my ‘cyberspace’ skills.  Hopefully it worked but in case it didn’t, here is a copy.”

And here’s the e-mail she printed out and faxed, which (probably later) was edited by hand:

E-mail that was faxed

E-mail that was faxed

Just one week later, Sherri seemed much more comfortable with e-mail, as seen in her March 13th “I love this e-mail stuff” e-mail:

"I love this e-mail stuff!"

“I love this e-mail stuff!”


The adoption of e-mail in place of faxing brings to mind Heather’s December post on Federation’s early work on their own website, in 1998.

Technology began to change rapidly in the late 1990s as more of our documentation was created in electronic form only.  Questions of what have we may have lost come to mind.  In moving to e-mail and electronic communication, does it matter that we will no longer see someone’s handwriting on a fax?  Or doodles on pages of notes or meeting agendas?  Have we lost anything of value, as long as we are able to preserve and maintain and continue to access the content itself?  Are we sure, yet, that we will be able to preserve, maintain and continue to access the electronic files we depend on? Digital archivists are hard at work figuring out best practices to make sure that people interested in researching post-2000 files will in fact be able to do so.


  1. Very thought provoking post on what, prima facie, seems to be such a mundane bit of correspondence. Love this blog!


    Comment by Betsy Karpenkopf — February 22, 2015 @ 11:39 pm

  2. Great post! It makes me nostalgic about the ‘90s. I am ready to start processing the Sherri Greenbach files this afternoon.


    Comment by Marvin Rusinek — February 23, 2015 @ 11:30 am

  3. Brilliant. Makes me wonder what my parents’ first attempts at email looked like…



    Comment by burghlars — February 23, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

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