Where are your family treasures?

Where are your family treasures?This week, I was working with a wonderful organizing client. As she gave me a tour of the storage spaces in her home, she said, “This is my most treasured possession!” And she bent down and pulled a plastic bin out from under the bed. Inside was her father’s World War II photo album, along with a few other war artifacts. The photo album had small black-and-white photos mounted onto black paper with meticulous white handwritten captions. The pages were deteriorating and some of the photos had fallen out of their mounting.

I oohed and ahhhed because it was an amazing heirloom. But I challenged her a little by saying, “Why is your most treasured possession stored under the bed in a non-archival plastic bin?” One day (soon, I hope), we will work together to get this item and some other heirlooms into safer storage.

That very same day, my mother’s cousin asked me for a photo of my grandfather for the genealogy poster he is putting together. So I rifled through the box of family photos that my mother gave me, trying to locate a good picture for him. As I did that, I realized that these photos are among my most treasured possessions, yet I am not treating them with the respect they deserve. They’re not archivally stored, nor are they organized.

When I acquired this box in December, I blogged about my plan to deal with them. But I’ve done nothing. I keep waiting for a free block of time.  should know by now that the free time is never going to materialize on its own. I have to set aside time for this project. Luckily for me, this branch of the family is having a reunion in a couple of months, so I can get some help identifying the people in these photos!

How about you? Do you have treasured inherited items that are languishing in unsafe conditions? If you need information on how to handle and store them, check out Sally Jacobs of The Practical Archivist and Denise Levenick of The Family Curator. Don’t wait for something bad to happen. Carve out some time to deal with them now.

Now’s your chance to buy the Family Archivist Survival Kit

Family Archivist Survival KitProper preservation of treasured family photographs and other historical documents is really important, as I discussed here recently. Unfortunately, it can also be a little laborious to track down the proper supplies. And it can be challenging to understand the steps that are really necessary for proper preservation.

Fortunately, there’s the Family Archivist Survival Kit, from Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist. Here’s the thing: Sally makes this available only in the month of October. So if you don’t order by November 4, you’ll have to wait another year.

The 2013 Family Archivist Survival Kit is actually four kits in one:

  • Loose Photo Kit
  • Documents and Ephemera Kit
  • Oversize Kit
  • Photo Rescue Kit (for salvaging photos from those horrible old-school “magnetic” adhesive photo albums)

The first three kits include appropriately sized archival boxes and archival interior folders or envelopes. All these items have passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). The Photo Rescue Kit includes hand-held tools (white gloves, two types of pencils and a microspatula). In addition, you get ten hours of recorded instruction from Sally’s Joy of Organizing Photos workshop and other informational goodies.

I ordered Sally’s Declutter Your Photos Like An Archivist kit a couple of months ago and am now a bona fide fan girl. A professional archivist, Sally not only knows her stuff, she understands and sympathizes with the challenges family archivists face. So her information is accessible and relevant.

I first stumbled upon Sally’s information last January and wanted to buy the Family Archivist Survival Kit at that moment. Alas, I had to wait until October and, believe me, I bought it the minute I read the email telling me the kit was available. If you’re interested, don’t delay. November 4 is the last day to buy one.

Photo of the Family Archivist Survival Kit courtesy of Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist.


The importance of proper preservation

disintegrating scrapbook croppedI recently purchased the Declutter Your Photos Like an Archivist kit from Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist. The kit came with some great supplies and some wonderful info. And it included four live webchats with Sally last month for people who purchased the kits.

Great stuff. Great learning.

My takeaway was how important it is to properly store family keepsakes on paper so that acid doesn’t destroy them over time. It takes more effort. It’s more expensive. And the end result is that future generations will be able to enjoy and benefit from these precious items.

This is all well and good in theory. The application of it, however, can feel cumbersome, as I discovered when helping a client sort through World War II-related items left behind by her grandfather and father.

Then we found her father’s scrapbook, a page of which is pictured above. He obviously took so much care in putting it together. When he was alive, he refused to speak to his children about his war experiences and didn’t even let them look at his scrapbook. Now that he’s gone, his daughter can learn a little about his experience through this precious book.

But here’s the thing: The scrapbook is literally disintegrating. The papers held within are in okay shape. But the brittle, yellowed scrapbook pages were clearly made from acidic paper and they crumble at the touch. I’m hopeful that my client will make it a priority to rescue the items held inside the scrapbook and perhaps replicate it in an acid-free environment.

I so appreciate this reminder of the importance of proper preservation if papers are to survive to be enjoyed by future generations. Any time I hesitate to go to the trouble and expense, I’ll remind myself of this scrapbook.