Tips for Preserving Family Memories
No matter what the explanation, the idea of someone's childhood moldering in the back of an antique store isn't appealing. Its bad enough walking around those stores and seeing things from my childhood, such as rotary phones and Star Wars toys, labeled as vintage. My childhood is not vintage!
In an effort to avoid becoming someone's antique, I've since given all possible next of kin express instructions to burn, not sell my photos should they ever be in the unfortunate position of owning them and not wanting them. If you are even remotely related to me, you will soon receive your letter and a packet of matches.
Since I don't want to have a bonfire before I die, I began to think of ways to make sure family memories are treasured by future generations. Sadly, there is nothing I can do to guarantee it, but below are some tips I'm using, and you can use too, to increase the odds that family photos will someday stay in the family.
1. Label the photo with names, dates and locations. Having looked through many of my grandparent's photo albums, I can tell you it's frustrating when there's no information about anyone or anything in the pictures. Thankfully, my grandparents labeled most of their stuff. It gives names to the faces and provides a more meaningful connection between the past and the present. Also, it's fun to see what a house or place looked like long ago and how it has changed.
2. Arrange photos in attractive albums. A shoe box of photos is a lot easier for a relative to give away than a pretty photo album which can easily be stored on a bookshelf. Organized albums also make it easier to label photos as suggested in tip #1. To protect the photos, make sure they's kept in acid free albums and adhered with acid free products. Most scrapbooking supplies sold at major craft stores are acid free. Check the packaging to make sure.
3. Share the photos with your children. Studies have shown that children who know about their families do better and are better able to handle life's challenges. A firm knowledge of family history gives children a sense of place and makes a family stronger. Flipping through old photos is a great way to spend time with your children while passing on the family history.
4. Write down the stories behind the photos. Not every photo will have a great tale to accompany it, but many will. If not a tale, then maybe an antidote about what happened before or after the picture you took at Aunt Margie's wedding. Not only will you be preserving the family lore but you will be adding to it. The photo and stories will help spark memories years after the event, especially if some of the people associated with it are gone.
5. Entrust the photos to someone who cares. Not everyone in the family is interested in the past, and that's OK. Find the person who is, perhaps it's you, and entrust the photos and albums to them. Not only will you up your odds of keeping everything in the family, but you will help create a repository where others can add to or look for stories and memories.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Please check out my books, which are all set in the time before photography but have strong stories about families.