“Irving Finkel collects ordinary people’s lives. He hoards their life stories in diary form and has amassed a collection of hundreds of handwritten volumes. But Irving has a problem. What should he do with them? The diaries are crammed onto shelves and piled up in corners of his small office. Irving’s day job is Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum.”
The Man Who Saves Life Stories was one of those little gems that Radio 4 produces; the story of a museum curator and British eccentric who fell into collecting diaries and is now trying to house that collection as a ‘people’s history’ thing.
Along with a couple of trusty recruits, Polly North and Laura Barnicoat, Irving set out to turn the collection it into a ‘proper’ archive of private diaries written by ordinary people.
The diarists are interesting, but not so much as Finkel and helpers, including the radical, anarcho-punk curator who rides to the rescue with grand plans for a social history archive at his current museum of radical, anarcho-punk books and papers.
All in all, it’s another tale of plucky British, un-funded amateurs attempting to build something significant on no more than passion and enthusiasm. This one just might work.
The shoe-string project is about to take off and will probably outgrow the current web-site, The Great Diary Project.
The Man Who Saves Life Stories
Programme information from the BBC website.
Last broadcast on June 1, 2018, 11:00 on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
Producer: Tamsin Hughes
A Testbed Production for BBC Radio 4.