Portraits of the Past – Treasuring Memories
Do you have family portraits that you wish to preserve? Carol talks about her family and the importance of treasuring family stories for the next generation.
A Box of Photos
Have you inherited a box of photos or a trunk of memorabilia? Are you accumulating a plethora of bits and pieces, objects which represent your life? How do you preserve the stories and memories attached to an object in order to entice the next generation to continue adding to the family story?
Part of preserving the family memories and stories that are puzzle pieces of our lives goes beyond simply mentioning a few details, although the oral storytelling is a wonderful thing to do and a great beginning. But there are a variety of ways to record family history.
Social Media Preservation
In a day when Twitter and Facebook seem to give us glimpses into people’s everyday lives, they also pose a drawback to truly preserving memories. The vast amount of material, photos, and sound bite size postings make retrieval of specific information more difficult. How much do we omit since the world is viewing it rather than just trusted friends or family?
More Traditional Methods
Let’s talk about some other things we can do to share these stories with family, friends, and sometimes others. I propose a few more permanent methods of keeping family memories preserved for future generations to enjoy, shake their heads about, and maybe even show a few emotions as they begin to feel connected to people who might otherwise only be a face in an old grainy photo or a name bandied about by the old people.
Scrapbooking allows for a combination of photos, small memorabilia and journal entries or short stories in one album. It has been around for a few generations but today we have more variety in the archival quality of paper and albums, the tools to help us create works of art, and even fun things to add some interest to the pages if we want. There is also the option of digital scrapbooking which allows us to store more information without taking up a lot of room and makes it easier to share copies with many family members.
One of my mom’s younger cousins gathered all the family tree information, photos, stories, and anecdotal history which she assembled over the course of quite a few years. The family had twelve children and the subsequent generation each added their own information. To print it all off would have taken twelve large ring binders. She gave each of us a folder with a flashdrive, a CD of photos and a couple pages of print information. What a wealth of family history stored in a small space.
Scanning items such as old letters or photographing three dimensional pieces adds a visual element to the story. The more detailed the journaling, including emotions, the clearer importance of the pictures of people, events or objects depicted becomes.There are a variety of these beautifully bound and illustrated fill in the blanks books on the market. In addition to places for family trees, they include questions to spark a conversation or the writing of memories. These books give a starting place for information and stories. The downsides of this method include a lack of space for enough details and photos or memorabilia since the binding does not allow for additional pages. I like using them to stimulate the memories with the questions and then using what I gather to journal on scrapbook pages or write out the answers in a notebook – maybe sometime they might be formulated in a story format.
Technology, such as a digital voice recorder captures the voice of the storyteller or a video camera which allows for vocal and images of the person relating the stories and any memorabilia they show. Questions asked during the telling can spark more details from the storyteller. The ease of making additional copies for family members becomes another benefit of this option.
Writers gravitate to the written words as a preferred method of capturing the family stories. We take the lists, the items, the pictures and add in the personal thoughts, memories, and feelings to achieve a glimpse into the characters in our family tree. The downside of this method is a lack of pictures and memorabilia.
The key to preserving memories is not procrastinating. Gather the facts, stories, documents, photos and objects before the keepers or owners of them vanish. Then choose a method to preserve them. Document how family survived various situations, historic events or life changing moments. Interview older living relatives, like your parents or grandparents. Get their perspective and stories recorded before it is too late. Take time to sort photos, label who is in them and why they are significant in your family’s life. Do this for your own story as well so your children will have the opportunity to ask questions to help fill in gaps we may have missed while we recorded them.
Looking at the portraits of the past gives us an opportunity to dialogue, to share lessons learned and memories made. Go ahead. Preserve the memories.
Carol Harrison B.Ed is a speaker and published author with one book, Amee’s Story and stories in twelve anthologies. She is passionate about helping people of all ages and ability levels find their voice and reach their fullest potential.
She knows, through personal experience that some of life’s experiences are tougher than others. She encourages people that even in the twists and turns of life God’s amazing grace provides hope.
She lives in Saskatoon, SK with her husband Brian. They have four adult children and a dozen grandchildren.