This week, I got to go to a presentation by the author of The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian. It was a fascinating talk, and I’m looking forward to reading the book.
In the 1830’s, the U.S. received word that James Smithson, a man who had never set foot in the United States, had left his estate to the U.S. for what ultimately became the Smithsonian. At one point, the U.S. had possession of all of Smithson’s diaries and papers, but due to a fire before the items could be catalogued, everything was lost, along with most of the knowledge of who Smithson was.
The author of this book went on a hunt to find out more about Smithson and went on an international search of news articles, published scientific papers, and bank records. She found out a surprising amount of information in Smithson’s bank records, as well as those of his mother. It was a great way to see where he went and what he was involved in.
While bank records are very different now, nearly 200 years later, I wonder what my bank records say about me. If someone could get into them. People would find much better information in my credit card records. A quick glance at my bank accounts shows regular deposits, payments to my credit cards, and my rent check. Doesn’t say too much except for what I did for a living and where I lived.
At the end of the year, one of my credit card companies sends a summary of all the activity for that year, broken down into categories. Of course, the categories aren’t always accurate, but it’s an interesting overview of my spending, and tells a little bit more about me – where I vacationed and where I liked to eat and shop. Still not very eye opening, but if 200 years from now, if someone is trying to figure out who I was, it’s a good start.
What do your bank records say about you?
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