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Dear Diary: A Celebration of Diaries and their Digital Descendants

Inigo Rooms, King's College London, Somerset House East Wing
26 May – 7 July 2017, Weds–Sun, 11.00-17.30

Curated by Professor Clare Brant and Dr Polly North

‘Diaries are among our most precious items of heritage. ... No other kind of document offers such a wealth of information about daily life and the ups and downs of human existence.’ Irving Finkel, founder, The Great Diary Project

Dear Diary posterDear Diary is an exhibition that celebrates diaries and the many ways in which diarists capture human experience. Revealing the extraordinary and the everyday in individual lives, diaries often provide a safe space for people to confide their successes and disappointments, pleasures and pressures, loves and losses. The exhibition explores what motivates diarists and charts the ways in which paper diaries have been joined by phones and tablets as our means of keeping track of daily life. Bringing together manuscript and online diaries, from pre-modern almanacs to the latest trend of lifelogging, the exhibition considers how digital forms can be seen as descendants of traditional diaries rather than their destroyers.

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Photo of Dear Diary exhibition by Fung-Wah Man

Appointment diaries and apps help us manage time. But what do we do with it? Diaries show how work, health, love, family and friends occupy us in different ways. Diaries from different periods provide comparative material on topics like food, marriage and money, inviting reflections on how people change – or stay the same. Digital forms of recording like fitness apps, have turned personal data into a form of self-expression. But is it all really new?

The emergence of blogs and vlogs make digital forms of diary open to scrutiny and change privacy into community. Dear Diary highlights how diaries stage important issues for the individual and society, including those of identity, intimacy, privacy, secrecy, therapy, self-expression, self-improvement, memory and witnessing. For refugees, written and video diaries help restore voiced and visible subjectivity: can we stand in their shoes for a day?  

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Photo of Dear Diary exhibition by Fung-Wah Man

Celebrating a wide range of diaries past and present, Dear Diary shows the diary form is alive and well in the digital age. Specially-commissioned film interviews with living diarists, by artist Derek Eland, reveal how diaries are meaningful to people now.

Profound, prosaic and surprising, diaries give unique accounts of individual lives, offer interpretations of the world and add new and thought-provoking dimensions to social history.

Find out more about the exhibition on the Dear Diary Expo website, as well as Twitter and Instagram.


Dear Diary press coverage

BBC Radio 2 Arts Show with Jonathan Ross – interview with Professor Clare Brant (starts at 44:00)

BBC Radio 4 – Saturday Live interview with Professor Clare Brant (starts at 27:00)

BBC Radio Oxford – Professor Clare Brant’s interview on the Sunday morning programme (starts at 1:07:40)

BBC London – Radio coverage of the exhibition, including an interview with Dr Polly North (starts at 1:10)

London Live – TV coverage of the exhibition, including an interview with Professor Clare Brant

The Big Issue – 'How to find happiness in a diary', Professor Clare Brant

Run Riot – 'Why keep a diary?', Professor Clare Brant

The Times on Saturday – 'Diaries, chosen by Clare Brant', Professor Clare Brant

Evening Standard – article on Dear Diary by Tim Cooper

Time Out online Dear Diary was included in ‘things to do in London this Sunday’

Londonist – Dear Diary was included in 'things to do today in London'

Information Society – Dear Diary was included in 'inclusion in ‘things to do in London’

Visit London – Dear Diary was included in 'inclusion in ‘things to do’


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Photo of Dear Diary exhibition by Fung-Wah Man



Curator tour with Professor Clare Brant, 22 June 2017

Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing

RSVP for the curatour tour here.

A unique opportunity to hear curator Professor Clare Brant talk about the themes behind and works displayed at Dear Diary. Professor Clare Brant is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature & Culture in the Department of English and co-director of the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King's. She is the co-curator of Dear Diary alongisde Dr Polly North, Director of The Great Diary Project.

The tour group will be kept small to allow for conversations and questions. These conversations create a space for dialogue between scholars, practitioners, artists and interested parties around the subject of the exhibition, namely the many ways in which diarists capture human experience.

Diaryfest, 30 May 2017

Council Room (K2.29), King's Building, Strand Campus

The Centre for Life-Writing Research presented Diaryfest on 30 May 2017, a day of talks about diaries. Eminent biographers, critics, writers and film-makers talked about different aspects of diaries, on subjects ranging from Pepys to refugees. 

More information on Diaryfest including the event programme can be found here.


The exhibition is a collaboration between King’s College London’s Centre for Life-Writing Research and The Great Diary Project, supported by the Department of English and presented by Cultural Programming at King’s. It also draws on the expertise of the European Research Council-funded Ego Media research group at King’s, which investigates life writing in the digital age. 


Ego Media:


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