We genealogists often accumulate a lot of family “stuff:” original documents, old photographs and heirlooms. Though it’s wonderful to own them, it can be a serious challenge to keep them organized and documented.
1. Take stock of what you’ve got. Gather together all the original documents or photos, or take pictures of all your heirlooms, then review the entire collection at the same time.
2. Get rid of duplicates and stuff that doesn’t matter so much. You probably don’t really need all 10 of grandma’s quilts or those hundreds of scenic photographs from old family vacations. Rethink the 12-piece setting of china you’ll never use and grandpa’s tidy but prolific collection of nuts and bolts.
3. Carefully document and organize originals. Each kit includes supplies and instructions to help you safely identify each item. This is probably the most important step. We love our pictures, old letters and heirlooms because of the family connection. If that connection is lost, so is the value of the object.
4. Scan flat items and take digital pictures of dimensional ones. Keep these as “backups” in case the original is ever harmed. (The document and photo kits even come with Archival Gold CDs, which aren’t easy for genealogists to come by but perfect for long-term digital storage.) Use copies for reference and display, so you don’t expose your originals to everyday wear.
5. Store originals safely. The Heirloom Inventory kit includes suggestions for storing and displaying original objects. The document and photo kits include top-quality archival supplies and step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to store your stuff in them.
6. Share what you’ve got. Frame copies of your old photos and put them on the wall or a shelf. Keep copies of old documents handy to show relatives. Display your heirlooms. Use them all as conversation pieces whenever you get a chance. Tell stories about the people. Share memories that help other relatives understand why these items matter to you. That will help ensure that these items will live on in the family lore.