Help your clients archive their photos, papers, and more
Margot Note is a professional archivist with nineteen years experience. A couple of years ago, she realized she could use her talents and skills as an archivist to help individuals and families bring order to their chaotic piles of photos, letters, and other family history mementos. In this episode, she shares professional tips on how you can help your clients archive their own precious mementos, following standards and best practices used by museums, corporations, and organizations.
If you want a deep dive into helping clients archive their materials (or to get a grip on your own), join Margot’s upcoming webinar, “Organize What’s Meaningful to You.”
Tune in to this episode of the The Life Story Coach to hear us discuss:
How to create order out of chaos!
- Margot becomes the family historian—and a new idea is born: taking her archiving skills to the public
slow and steady progress begins with a plan
- Be intentional with where you invest your time, and choose where you’ll get the most dividends (look here for Margot’s Project Prioritizer)
- Don’t think of the project as one big lump; chunk it out to keep it from being overwhelming
- How it works: an example of one Margot helping a client get her and her children’s mementos out of the Lululemon bags and into acid-free folders and archival boxes
- Start getting the physical artifacts in order before digitizing anything
- Margot is digitizing, annotating, and posting the 1940 love letters of her grandparents; the interplay of letters, photos, and research starts with getting things organized
- On recognizing the value of history and the historical artifacts; you need to reach a certain age before you appreciate family history. Organize what you have and keep it preserved for future generations, even if the teenagers show no interest now!
- Keeping it organized gives more insurance that it won’t end up in the trash
- On hearing the dreaded: “I know my child isn’t going to want this material.” Don’t throw it away; give them a change to decide if and what they want to keep (hint: it’ll be more than you think!)
- Be kind to your descendants: provide captions for your photos
- Use full names on captions, e.g. “Joyce Smith,” not “Aunt Joyce”
- On working with letters and scrapbooks, and the surprising dangers of newsprint
- Decide on an order of organization (and what that means!)
Tips on storing archival materials:
- Take them out of harm’s way; get them out of the attic, shed, garage, and basement storage, or anyplace with fluctuation in temperature and humidity
- Don’t get fixated on the details of individual items, think in terms of groups. What are the big buckets you can sort your material into? Think of high level groupings.
- Keep the original order (and what that means)
- don’t worry about getting rid of duplicates; it’s probably not worth your time. Get things in their group and then start looking at it in a more granular level
- Best place to store family archives: interior closets, like a bedroom or linen closet
- If you don’t know what kind of supplies you need, start at the Container Store, which has a section with archival boxes and folders and even garment bags for things like old christening gowns. Do not use old plastic containers or old cardboard boxes because of chemicals and off-gassing
- A great preservation retailer: Gaylord Archival
- Look for products that are acid-free and lignin-free
What is a finding aid?
- Create a document to itemize what you have in each box; this is your finding aid
- The finding aid gives an overview of the materials you have and how they’re organized
- Finding aids act as a map of where things are and can be especially helpful when materials are spread among relatives
What if my client is overwhelmed?
- When to bring in a professional archivist
- People love to save things, but they don’t usually think about the order it’s put in. That’s where an archivist can help
Get started with Margot’s excellent book, Creating Family Archives: How to preserve your papers and photographs
Want a deeper dive into helping clients archive their materials (or getting a grip on your own)? Join Margot upcoming webinar, “Organize What’s Meaningful to You.”