Your story - a work in progress

At a recent talk here at Auckland Libraries, many of us came away buzzing over ideas on preserving 'our' story. What can we do right now, to get those interesting things about ourselves organised for posterity?

Our speaker, Jan Gow, discussed a computer programme called Treepad, that has a free edition, but also a  paid edition with useful add-ons such as the ability to save images.

But as she said, there are other options, too.

For the paper-addicted among us, the stationery sections at book stores are our happy place, from basic binders to the joy of the beautifully-covered journal. One could purchase a different journal for each decade (perhaps colour-coded?), and add to it over time.

If spread-sheets are so your thing, you could come up with something practical there.

And you could always make up an eBook, which I’ll address in a later post. Publishing an e-book can cost you virtually nothing, and you can easily get print copies for little cost, as well.

The message is that there are plenty of ways that suit you of getting your story down for that life-long work-in-progress.

A number of practical ideas came out of this.

Take copies of your photos and find out the story behind the image

Write down what you remember about it. Many of our parents, or even us, have slides (remember those?)  One could project slides and simply photograph them from the big screen, but there are devices to copy slides you could look in to. It could be something worthwhile for a family history group to invest in for members to borrow.

Identify significant occasions

Some ideas are transportation (your car-owning history over the decades is a great one!), games, pets, holidays, schools, careers, special events, and of course food. You could scan recipes from Grandma’s old recipe book to add to your collection. That gorgeous prize-winning shortbread...! You could organise your story according to these categories, or by the decades.

Remember to catalogue precious items

What is the story behind that china teacup, or painting, or your grandmother’s ornament? Photograph the item, and add the image to your work in progress with details of the story behind it. Scanning letters, cards and newspaper clippings is a good idea, too. This could be a great thing to do to get the kids (and let's face it, adults!) off social media for a spell, too.

One thing that appealed to me was to make a day of combining oral history with cataloguing. A family member recently suffered a stroke, which brings home abruptly how sad the loss of one's memory can be. When I visit next, I plan to spend time going through those tea cups, ornaments, paper items, and inherited furniture that none of the family really knows anything about, photographing them and jotting down the story behind them. Recording the conversations on my phone will help. Not only will it, I hope, be a form of therapy for them, but also fun, and for our family, a record of our own family history.

For more ideas, search the Auckland Libraries catalogue with the reference 1 GEN DOC. 

There is inspiration aplenty, such as the books Keeping family treasures and Keeping chronicles: preserving history through memorabilia.

Author: Joanne, Research Central