One day in 2004, I was in my office in Portland waiting for someone who’d called to say she had a new project for me. I was a freelance graphic designer, and I assumed she probably wanted help with a brochure or catalog. Shortly after noon, in walked a determined-looking woman carrying a shopping bag full of papers, photos, and notes. She set the bag down in front of me, took a seat, looked at me closely and asked, “Can you make a book out of this?”
I looked at her, looked at the bag of treasures, and couldn’t wait to get going. That was my first personal history project—and when it was finished, I knew I wanted to do more of this kind of work.
Professionally, I have a BFA in graphic design from the Maine College of Art and a BA in Art History from the University of Massachusetts. I’ve studied at the University of Illinois and at Salzburg College in Austria. I’m president of my town’s historical society and I have belonged to and worked for the Association of Personal Historians for fifteen years.
But beyond that, I’ve been an offset press operator, a cafeteria worker, a librarian, a factory machine operator, and a published author. I’ve collected postcards, built a house, married a wonderful guy, birthed a son and adopted a daughter, helped my parents downsize, biked across Maine, and coordinated Elderhostel adventures in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Personal history is about stopping, remembering, reflecting, recording. What I’ve written in shorthand about myself is a quick trip; expanding upon it is a greater journey—a longer, absorbing, and satisfying process. Would you like to go beyond your own shorthand life story? Drop me a line!
— Katie Murphy, Portland, Maine
Proud member since 2005.