I love speaking with genealogy groups (and I deliberately use the phrase “speaking with” rather than “speaking to”) because I get to hear people’s questions about obstacles they face with sharing their family history.
And STUFF is often the problem. In this case it’s the STUFF we get because our family sees us as the family historian/archivist/curator.
Recently, after doing a presentation called “Bring Your Ancestors Alive With Video” for a local genealogy society, we had a lively question and answer session. One lady, with some frustration in her voice, exclaimed, “My family keeps sending me the photos and papers. It’s taking up so much space. What do I do with it all?”
Oh, how I feel her pain. Being seen as THE family historian is a blessing, a responsibility, and sometimes, a big pain in the…(fill in your appropriate term here). And there never seems to be enough shelves!
My answer could have been rather long-winded litany of resources for archival storage, methods for digitizing and schemes for cataloging/organizing.
But, I also offered the option of donating items to a relevant historical society, archive, or library special collection, with the means for proper archival storage and for making items safely accessible to researchers.
The Society of American Archivists’ website offers excellent advice about what to do when considering donating family records to a repository. Here’s the link to the web page: http://www2.archivists.org/publications/brochures/donating-familyrecs.
SUPER IMPORTANT TIP: Contact and speak with the staff BEFORE you take stuff to a repository. Don’t just dump your family records at the door! If the items aren’t appropriate for that institution’s collection the archivist may be able to recommend a more appropriate place.
In the meantime, preserve your family records (photos, papers, digital media, and artifacts) by storing in a “cool, dry, temperature stable environment,” like an interior closet or shelf on an interior wall inside your house (NOT the attic, garage, or damp basement).
The U.S. National Archives offers helpful tips on preserving family papers and photographs here: https://www.archives.gov/preservation/family-archives
If you’re like me, dealing with family history STUFF is a never-ending process. But, because we’re genealogists, family history STUFF equals family history goodies for making Ancestor Story Videos. Yay!
Want to start turning the STUFF into stories? For less than the cost of a not-so-healthy fast food lunch you can try the Ancestor Story Video Starter Kit to get your ancestors “off the shelf” and into your family’s minds and memories. (Way more satisfying than fast food, too!) Click the button to get your kit.