- American Family Archives | Overall Philosophy
- American Family Archives | Finding Family Artifacts
- American Family Archives | Setting Up a Great Work Space
- American Family Archives | Sorting Through Family History
- American Family Archives | Dating Photos & Media
- American Family Archives | 8mm Home Movies & Films
- American Family Archives | Preserving 35mm Slides
- American Family Archives | Preserving Photo Albums
- American Family Archives | Postcards | Family History & Archival Care
- American Family Archives | Preserving Snapshots | Chapter 1
- American Family Archives | Preserving Wedding Dresses & Heirloom Fabrics
- American Family Archives | Preserving Toys – Old & New
- American Family Archives | Your HOME as Family History & Genealogy Resource!
The Overall Philosophy of
Personal Family Archives
Why I Gotta Do This:
Family Archives: A Journey into Ancestry, Genealogy, Family History, Antique Photographs, Disorganization, Dysfunction, Chaos, and One Man’s Search for Archival Salvation
Let’s face it, we’ve all got one. Usually someplace where the sun doesn’t shine. Yup, its the “family archive” – those shoeboxes full of snapshots, formal portraits, newspaper clippings, old home movies, christening presents, wedding dresses, childhood toys and artwork, diplomas, the list of “stuff” goes on and on (and on and…).
It usually looks something like this:
And just where is this eclectic stash of family curiosities? Why it’s in the attic, of course, freezing to death in the winter, frying in the summer. Or it’s in the basement, next to the cat’s litter box, slowly moldering away (dust to dust, right? – even for family photographs). Or it’s in an outdoor storage locker someplace, or its “archivally stored” in shoeboxes or crappy non-archival photo albums that are in fact doing more harm than good. As a rule of thumb, for most of us at least, its out of sight / out of mind.
But wait a minute. Why is this? This is just wrong. I mean, more often than not when you hear about what people risked their lives—quite literally—to save from a burning house, or from Hurricane Poindexter that came slamming into town, or from the once-in-a-hundred-years flood that showed up last week – its family photographs. Almost everything else an individual owns can be replaced, in one form or another, but this is usually not the case with family photographs (unless one has a “disaster recovery plan,” but more on that later). Barring such disasters, if you lose your family photos or related heirlooms to neglect or the ravages of time (or badly executed “preservation” attempts) then you’ve lost your history. You’ve become unmoored from the continuum of your family’s last hundred-plus years, knocked off the foundations on which your own personal history was built. Sure, you might still be alive and kicking, but just what has been lost?
I could write paragraph after paragraph, page after page on the reasons one should go and grab those boxes of memories and keepsakes and begin sorting / organizing / archivally storing all of the material that makes up one’s personal family history – the snapshots, the important papers, the kids’ old report cards, the love poems dad wrote to mom back in college, the Grateful Dead ticket stub from ‘72 – all of it. Well, I won’t tell you that, because I just did.
Instead, in the coming series of blog postings I am going to walk through the merriment, memories, minefields and occasional mayhem of my own life as defined by the artifacts and photographs – the “family history” – left to me by my parents and grandparents, with the goal of making sure that it is all figured out and in the right archival enclosures, boxes and albums to insure maximum longevity, utility and survival. In the process I’m heading back to the 19th century; watching the age of flight begin; hanging out with grandpa (who was a jerk, according to my dad) during the Depression; witnessing World War II through the eyes of my parents; experiencing the ‘50s / ‘60s / ‘70s and everything in between, all to land right back in the here and now – the era of the Smartphone camera, the photographs nobody prints, and the family histories left unrecorded and ill-preserved. All this as our parents and grandparents (and eventually each of us ourselves) inevitably and inexorably shuffle off to join the ranks of their own parents and grandparents in the Land of Not Around Anymore. Now is the time to do this, so here goes.
To make the past the present…
…this is what the last hundred years looks like:
And this is what I’m gonna make it to look like:
(Please click on each image for more information)
The stuff that makes up each of our own family’s history is full of various artifacts of one form or another, and while this voyage of discovery / recovery will start with a primary focus on photographs (no pun intended), there will be detours here and there to visit the best practices for the understanding and archival preservation of various other forms of family artifacts – each a piece of ancestral history often with zero monetary value (or less) and yet priceless in terms of sentimental or personal value.
As an example, you can tell a lot about someone by what kind of toys they played with as a child. To wit, my family as six-year-old kids. Worth preserving in the best archival materials, methinks, and I’m gonna show you how.
So, with stacks and stacks of family photographs and artifacts as my traveling companions, the roadmap to get from Point A to Point Z looks something like this:
↑ Point A: A long way to go, it would seem, and yet…
(cool stuff happens between Point A and Point Z – stayed tuned)
↓ Point Z: …that was actually easy, fascinating, full of unexpected treasures
and, very importantly, FUN TO DO!!!
The Next Steps for My Family Archives
In upcoming posts I’m gonna look at all the stuff that comprises my own family’s relatively vast and diverse photographic and heirloom archive (just gotta find it first). Yet its not about just me and my family, as what’s in store has a wonderful degree of universality in the specifics. What happened to my family happened, in general, to yours. Its cool. I’m going to sort through and archivally preserve the heirlooms—old and new—that meant something to us, and use them to try and figure out 1) what’s what; 2) who’s who; 3) where’s where; and 4.) when’s when. Through it all I’m sure I’ll uncover stuff I never knew existed (see the page from our family genealogy above – where did THAT come from?), while also discovering fascinating aspects of the lives of my relatives, my ancestors, my siblings and—of course—myself.
I hope you’ll join me on this adventure / offer your comments / ask me questions / steer me right when I’m going off the rails / share this series of posts with friends and relatives / buy me dinner the next time you’re in town (seriously, I know this great place, you’ll love it).
Its gonna be cool.
Rule #1: Don’t Blow Up!
Upcoming Blogs on the Specifics of Discovering, Enjoying, Sharing, and Archivally Preserving Family Photographs, Documents and Heirlooms, Without Blowing Up:
Part 1: Introduction – Philosophy of Personal Family Archives
Part 2: Locating My Family Photographs and Artifacts
Part 3: Setting Up a Workspace
Part 4: The Preliminary Sort – Images, Media Types, and Priceless Junque
Part 5: Quick and Easy Methods for Dating Photographs
Part 6: Rescuing and Revitalizing (and Sharing!) 8mm Home Movies
Part 7: Slides – Identification, Organization, Printing, & Archival Storage
Part 8: Snapshots – Sorting, Identification and Archival Care
Part 9: What to Do With All These Family Photo Albums?
Part 10: Framed Photographs and Stuff
Part 11: Genealogical Records – Windows on the Family
Part 12: Family Letters, Correspondences and Documents
Part 13: Newspaper Clippings and Scrapbooks – Windows on the World
Part 14: Fabrics, Wedding Dresses, Uniforms, Baby Clothes, Hats, and Stuff
Part 15: Toys and Weird Stuff: Archival Solutions
Part 16: Backing Up and Disaster Response
Part 17: The Payoff!
And with that, we’re off….