I've been "banging on" about timelines for a few weeks now - completely independently of the fanfare with which Facebook announced their Timeline. My interest in timelines stems from the need to recreate my Mum's life in a format that the people who care for her on a day to day basis can follow, with the hope that it means they can relate to her better as the person she once was rather than the person she now is. I should mention at this point that Mum has advanced dementia. She was diagnosed 10 years ago and moved into full time care almost 4 years ago. Between moving in there and February this year she had a constant link to her past. My Dad. He visited her 3 or 4 times a week and talked to her about friends, places they'd been and things they'd seen. In February Dad died. As an only child this link to Mum's past is now my sole responsibility. I don't feel that I know enough of Mum's early life to be able to fulfil this role at the moment, but I know more than anyone else and so this "timeline" will need to evolve as I learn more.

As a side note I have to confess that I don't find the word timeline works for me in this case. I find timeline to indicate something dull, something with facts but without emotional context. I'm interested in the stories, the personal recollections. Mum kept a very detailed journal from the early 80s until the early 00s at which point her memory for details had failed her and this became a chore rather than a pleasure (for her and my hero of a Dad). This should help enrich the story of these years, but they're supplemental to what I know and remember. And I suspect what's left of her memory is lodged in a much earlier period of her life.

I want to create a storyline for my Mum. I want to use photos and documents, recollections and objects to build up the story of who my Mum was. I want to be able to share her interests at different parts of her life. I'd like to get input from her friends and get their help to build this. But I also know that this won't necessarily ever feel finished and so I need to be able to produce newer versions as it evolves. I can't afford to wait until it feels finished. In tech terms, I need to ship early and often so that it gets used how I'd like it to be. The earliest incarnation is with her now, although I didn't realise what it was to become - I did her a photo book of "memories" which her carers love to go through with her, and which has already had some success from an engagement perspective - they talk to her about places she's been now. I'm about to start supplementing this with postcards. I see her about once a month - her home is close to where my family home was, and I'm 250 miles away - so I've been sending her postcards during the summer of places we've been. During winter I don't expect to have as many to send so I've ordered some postcards from Moo of photos of her and I, photos of Dad, photos of some of the objects I have that belonged to her. On each one I plan to write about what I've been doing, but also about the image - again adding to the storyline. 

As another side note, I am now also responsible for my own back story. Various elements of my childhood are based upon a similar wooly grounding of approximations based on mainly photographic evidence. It was this that prompted my thoughts around timelines. I was sitting at a computer tagging photographs of me from my childhood. I came across one from a Christmas and on it was a doll I remember. She was wearing a dress that seemed familiar so I said to Richard "Hey, I think Mum made that dress. I think I may have had something in that fabric too." And then I realised that I have no way of knowing if that is true. I believe it to be, but I have no one left to check it with. That is where the idea of creating a storyline for my Mum, and to some extent, me, came from.

What next? Well I need to start curating the facts, stories and photos into something I can eventually print out for her. Ideally I'd be able to share bits with other people to get some form of collaboration going, but at this time I think that I'll just send letters to some of her friends and ask them for favourite memories of her, or even their own remembrances of where they travelled with her etc. I'm aiming to be able to produce the next incarnation of her storyline in time for Christmas so I need to start putting some time aside to progress this project.