Preserving Paper: The Fragility of Family History Memories can be very important. They are reminders of people, places and experiences that have meant a lot to us. We reminisce with old friends, tell stories about our past adventures, and treasure the photos, letters and other and documents that remind us or jog our memories of the people we used to know. However, memory is not just about what we remember for ourselves. We even treasure the memories that have been shared with us. We keep hold of photos of family members who died long before we were born, and we preserve mementos of our own parents and grandparents, passing them on to the next generation, so that the people we have loved will continue to be remembered long after we are gone. We want to hold on to the stories we have been told, and the tangible reminders of the people who matter. This is why we need to keep hold of these family mementos. An old letter or photo can link the generations together, tell the stories and ensure that the people who created them will be remembered. Learn the tips and “how-to” take care of them with a free 205 page book you can download. CLICK HERE
Why Our Heirlooms Matter
Our tangible connections to the past, and the stories that go with them, can help us to form a sense of who we are and where we have come from. The lives that we have lived in the past shape our identities and influence the way we live now, but it can be difficult to hold on to these important memories, particularly as we age. As we grow older, our childhood memories become brighter, and our ties to our past become even more important to us, but just as we learn to value these older memories, we can begin to lose them. If we are not careful, we will lose the more tangible reminders of our past too. All those letters, diaries, and photographs that can seem so unimportant when we create them will take on new value when we look back at them decades later. We need to make sure they are still around for us to treasure. The much longer histories of our families can also shape our sense of self, creating connections through time and space that help us to understand what life was like for our parents and grandparents. Knowing who we are and where we have come from can give us roots. It can also help us to remember our family stories and pass them on to help the next generation establish their own roots and connections. Many people take an interest in their family history at some point in their lives, whether it is as children completing a project on family trees at school, or as older adults starting to take a deeper interest in their roots as children or grandchildren appear at the tips of the branches. Whatever our reasons, and whenever we choose to begin looking for these connections, the tangible reminders that we have of our family’s past will play an important role. Making connections to the past will be much easier when we can search out clues from old papers, and the connections we make will feel a lot deeper when we can read our ancestor’s own words or see their faces in old photos. Preserving the connections between the generations is one of the most important functions of family heirlooms, particularly those fragile documentary heirlooms that give us an insight into how our ancestors thought, spoke and lived. Our links to the past can all too easily be destroyed by time. Old papers and photos may have been lost or damaged and the ageing process itself can take a toll on our ability to recall details. What was out great aunt’s married name? What regiment did your grandfather serve in during the war? These are questions that it becomes increasingly difficult to find the answers to as time passes. Having some tangible reminders of the past can help us to remember more, and make it much easier for us to pass on this family knowledge to our own children and grandchildren. This is why we need to keep hold of family heirlooms and make sure that they are being cared for properly.
Fragile Tangible Heritage
Our family heritage items are not all about financially valuable family heirlooms that will grow in value. Our heritage is also about the photographs and documents that help us to feel a close personal connection with the past. We feel more when we see a letter written between our great-grandparents than we do when we look at an old piece of furniture that they once owned. We feel closer to our own parents when we look at our old family photos than we do when we wear the expensive gifts they gave us for a birthday or wedding. Although the value of these fragile mementos might not be apparent to anyone else, to the members of our own families they are priceless, irreplaceable treasures. We might be able to protect ourselves against the losses of items that only have material value, but if we lose our old photos, diaries, and other memorabilia, they will be gone for good, and no financial compensation from our insurance company will be able to repay us for their loss. We might not be able to protect our precious family documents and photographs against every eventuality, but storing documents properly can give them a much better chance of survival during an emergency such as an earthquake or flood. We can also do a lot to prevent photos and documents being damaged by everyday threats such as light, dust and moisture. Storing papers properly can help us to keep them in the best possible condition, for as long as we can. This will ensure that the memories and information they contain will continue to be available for us to enjoy as the years pass, and that they will still be there to link us to future generations of our family. Learn the tips and “how-to” take care of them with a free 205 page book you can download. http://www.collectioncaretips.com
Old documents can be a valuable source of family history information. In addition to formal documents, such as birth, death and marriage certificates, you may have old letters or other papers written by people from your family tree. Some of these could be relatively recent. You might have some old love letters or other documents from your own past that you would like to keep safe, or some notes your grandparents wrote for you about their childhood memories. Other family documents could be much older. You might have inherited some old family papers that need to be sorted and preserved properly, and these could be more than a hundred years old. Keeping them safe will require a delicate touch and careful storage. Place each document inside a protective folder or envelope. Make sure that you choose acid and lignin free paper and polyester plastics, as these are safe for paper. The storage material should be large enough to protect all the edges of the document, and stiff enough to support it so that your papers don’t get bent about when you pick them up. Once you have organized your papers, the best place to put them is in a waterproof, fireproof box or safe, which you can store in a safe, dry place that will remain at a cool room temperature throughout the year. Photocopying, photographing or transcribing the important information in these documents can also be a good idea. Not only will this ensure that you have a copy of your family documents if the worst happens and the originals are damaged, but it will also ensure that you have a less fragile piece of paper to hand over to interested relatives. You can easily make people their own copies of scanned or transcribed documents, or keep one alongside the original that people can handle and read. You can also store digital copies of your important documents online and keep paper duplicates in a safe deposit box, or hand them over to family members to store in their own homes. This means that the content will still be preserved, even if the originals are damaged by a disaster in your own home. Learn the tips and “how-to” take care of them with a free 205 page book you can download. CLICK HERE
How to Preserve Family Photos
Photographs also need to be stored safely, and they can also be scanned, photocopied, or photographed so that you have duplicates available to share and to store separately. Photos should be stored in a consistently cool and dry environment. Place them safely inside envelopes or albums that have passed the Photographic Activity Test. These materials, including acid and lignin-free paper and uncoated polyethylene, polyester or polypropylene, will not react badly with your photos. Avoid PVC as it can fade your colors or stick to and damage the photos. Keeping your family papers well organized is always important, but a good labeling system is essential when you are organizing your family photos. Where and when was the picture taken? Who are the people in it? You might remember now, but will you still know ten or twenty years from now? How will your children or grandchildren know if you don’t write it down? You can make notes on the back of the photo, but it is better to write a separate note that will be stuck next to the photo. This will ensure that people can see your notes and the picture at the same time, even when it has been placed in an album. Make sure you include all the information you have on your labels and that they are securely linked to the photo. You don’t want to end up with a lot of loose labels and no idea which photos they are referring to. A small address label stuck next to the photo in an album can be a secure choice, but if you are keeping your photos loose, you could try placing notes alongside the relevant photo in a folder or envelope. If you need to keep a group of photos together, you can always create a key describing each one. Include a small sketch or photocopy of each picture next to its information on the sheet so that it will be easy to identify. Looking After Your Books Books and diaries can also be important family heirlooms, particularly if you have a family Bible listing the names and birthdates of your relatives, or texts in which an ancestor has added their personal notes in the margins. Books should be stored in a safe, dry environment where they will not be exposed to extremes of temperature or to direct light. Attics and basements are not usually suitable for papers and books. Metal shelves are best, but you can line wooden shelves with glass, metal foil laminate, acrylic, polyester or polyethylene to prevent acids from the wood damaging the paper. Place books upright, next to books of similar sizes, as they will provide support for each other. Keep dust and dirt off the books, and protect any particularly sensitive or valuable books with polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester bags or boxes. Do not use PVC or other plastics for storing books. If any of your old books have been damaged in the past, you might want to talk to a bookbinder or conservator about repairs, although the most valuable collector’s items should usually be preserved as they are.
Preserving Fragile Memories
Books and paper documents are not the only family heirlooms that we need to preserve carefully. Other items that we have inherited may also need careful storage and protection in order to survive to be passed on to future generations. In addition to your paper heirlooms, you might need to find a safe home for old quilts and clothing, an old musical instrument, or military medals. Each type of item needs to be stored in the right way to prevent it from being damaged. It can take a lot of work to make sure each of our family treasures is handled correctly, but taking the time to look after these items now will enable us to pass on a valuable legacy to our descendants. Learn the tips and “how-to” take care of them with a free 205 page book you can download. http://www.collectioncaretips.com