So you thought archives were just for universities or governments, right? Think again, you probably have your family archive scattered all over your house and you don’t even know it!
Archives are essentially collections of historical materials. The documents, photographs, letters, trophies, home movies, mementos and family heirlooms that you have are part of your family archive. These items are the record of you. Maybe someone will want to research your life one day.
This puts things in a different perspective doesn’t it?
Of course your family archive may never become part of the Smithsonian or the Harvard Archives but they are more important to you than any other collections at a prestigious institution. Beyond the sentimental value that we all have for our treasured memories, these are the things that we’ll leave behind once we “shuffle off this mortal coil.” Some things will get lost, some things will get damaged by water, fire, mold, dirt or earthquakes (if you’re in California). Other things might get thrown away or forgotten. The things that are left will be what your descendants will know you by. It’ll be their window into your world…
Now that you see how important this “stuff” is during our lives and beyond, won’t you think about making just a little more effort to keep it safe? Here are just a couple straightforward tips to secure your memories and family treasures.
Backup Digital Photos
Just about everyone has a digital camera now and if you’ve had one for even a few years, you’ve probably taken more photos than you had in the last decade with a film camera. Of course the sentimental value of many of the photos won’t be as high if you took pictures of any old thing, but you surely have some gems in there that you want to keep for life. Go to an electronics store or Amazon.com, and buy an external hard drive. You can buy one with 100GB+ capacity for $40-50. Don’t buy a hard drive that’s way bigger than you need. Hard drives are like cars, they will eventually fail, so plan on transferring files to new drives at least a couple times every decade. If you can afford a Solid State Drive (SSD), these are even more reliable.
Box and Folder Your Documents and Photos
We’ve all got clutter piled up somewhere and within that clutter there are some important documents and memories. Maybe it’s your high school or college diploma, photographs or letters from loved ones. Dedicate a box or boxes to these things. Clear plastic containers are great for keeping out moisture, they’re acid free and you can see what’s inside. Cardboard boxes will do as a last resort but there are better options and it’s worth the investment. Standard cardboard boxes and manila folders should be avoided for longterm storage because they’re acidic. The glues and laminates that are used to make these products will seep into your photos and papers over time causing them to age faster, fading them and making them more brittle. If you can afford to invest in acid-free boxes and folders, it will help your memories last a lifetime.
Get Started Today
Starting a personal or family archive can be easy and fun and the payoff in a lifetime of good memories is priceless. Why do you think that people reach for the family photos before the flatscreen TV if their house is on fire? (hopefully you grab the baby first if you have one) The records of our great achievements, our happiest times and those we love are the most important things in our lives. We might as well start taking the steps to preserve them now.
We’re just scratching the surface, but to recap, basically you want to always have your most important computer files backed up to at least two separate hard drives and you want your documents, photos and other valuables to be kept away from light and moisture.
So what do you do to preserve your family archives?