23 July 2013

Book Review: How to Archive Family Keepsakes

How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise May Levenick provides suggestions on preserving family photos, heirlooms and genealogical records. The text is divided into three sections. The first section is "I inherited Grandma's Stuff, Now What?" The second is "Break the Paper Habit" and finally the last section is "Root Your Research in Strategies for Success."

Regardless of the "stuff" left behind, someone has to sort everything and organize it all. Levenick identifies three roles: the curator, creator and the caretaker. These roles, and how you see yourself, will factor in to how things get organized. The curator organizes items like a museum would - both preserving and exhibiting. Creators may create scrapbooks, pedigrees, biographies and family medical histories. A caretaker simply does not necessarily organize the collection but rather simply archives it. Recognizing your role is an important aspect to archiving family keepsakes.

Inventory the archives.
Label and identify not only what the item is, but also where you acquired it from and when it was first acquired. Keep a log of what you inventoried, where you put it and where it should ultimately go. For example, a box of your great uncle's military information and stuff may be grouped together and given to his oldest son.

Storing items in a proper manner will keep them preserved for future generations. Store your information in cabinets and avoid plastic bins. Closets in interior walls are good; whereas, closets in a kitchen or bathroom are not a good choice. Levenick gives a useful comparison on storage possibilities.

Spread the wealth
There is no rule that says one person must maintain everything! If you so choose, utilize family members to store and take care of different aspects. For example, one person may keep ahold of the family cookbooks. Another may retain the family bibles.

Where to go with it all!
Levenick offers insight to donating items - in full or in part - to historical societies, museums, and other such places. She warns that often the value of an item is more sentimental than monetary.

Levenick also brings up a good and often overlooked suggestion of considering insurance. You may want to consider having your collection appraised for not only monetary value but also historical, cultural and artistic value.

Photographs and Artifacts
Photography dates back to 1839 with the daguerreotype. Storage and organization tips for the various types of photography make up essentially a chapter in and of themselves. Artifacts includes art, china, glass, furniture, musical instruments, quilts, clothes, uniforms, jewelry, toys, dolls, tools and other collectibles.

Going Digital
Scan your papers and save them electronically. You can scan everything from photographs to certificates to letters and everything in between. Not only will this save physical room but it will also make it easier to share information with other family members.

All in all, this text is a useful helpful reminder of storage techniques. The book is priced at $24.99. I obtained a copy at my local library and quite honestly I think I would have felt cheated is I paid almost $25 for something so obvious. That said, much was obvious because I've been doing this for over 25 years. If I were just starting out then yes this book would be a must have.

Levenick, Denise May. How to Archive Family Keepsakes. Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2012.
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.