I had an “ah hah” moment last year when I was getting some pictures that I wanted to take with me to a family reunion. I knew I had some great old family photographs that my mother gave me after my grandma passed away a few years ago. My problem came when I opened the closet where I keep all my family history materials and I had no idea where to even begin looking. Man, that was frustrating and embarrassing!
I finally decided to do something about all the “stuff” I had been gathering over the years. It’s great stuff and I don’t want to throw any of it away or let anything to happen to it. But I really needed to know what to do to bring some sense of order to my mess. Plus, I wanted to know that my precious records weren’t falling apart or fading away from neglect.
I had no idea where to begin with a job like this. It all seemed so overwhelming. I was talking to a friend about my problem and he told me to go visit the local university library and talk to someone in their archives. Why not? Surely they would know what to do.
The visit went great! The archivist was sympathetic to my problem, which is exactly what I needed. He gave me just enough information to help me see that I could actually do something about my mess. He said that it all boiled down to about four things I needed to be aware of. He said that I need to:
- Find a place to put my “archive.” It needs to be:
- Safe and away from kids and pets
- Consistent temperatures; not too cold or too hot
- Out of the light
That’s about it. It didn’t sound too overwhelming at all. For the ordinary novice like me, he suggested I be careful about doing much more than that because I could end up doing more damage than good.
I’ve put a lot of time into organizing and boxing things, but I’m over half way through this project. At least there is hope and that’s what I needed. So, as you are thinking about your goals for 2011, consider creating an archive to protect all your valuable family history materials.