6 Ways to Preserve Diaries and Journals

6 Ways to Preserve Diaries and Journals

Don't let thoughts and feelings fade away! Learn how to protect and preserve diaries and journals so they can be enjoyed for generations. Plus, discover what journaling and preservation looks like in the digital age.

Dear Diary… Do you remember a childhood diary with tiny lock and key? Preserve diaries filled with youthful aspirations or grandpa’s wartime journal with these archival best practices. Plus, learn to think about journal preservation in a whole new (digital) way.

1. Preserve diaries and journals as an archivist

To preserve diaries and journals, store them in special boxes.

Store the book away from heat and light inside an acid-free archival box on a closet shelf in your home. Most importantly, don’t store heirloom books in an unheated space like a garage, attic, or basement. Changing temperatures and humidity invite speedy deterioration, pests, and mildew. Support detached covers with four-flap book enclosures to protect fragile bindings from further damage. Avoid stacking books on top of each other and adding pressure to items at the bottom of the stack.

2. Utilize apps to record your own experiences

Another way to preserve diaries is to make them digital to begin with.

High-tech diarists are more apt to use a smartphone journal app locked down with a password than a padlocked paper diary. However, the goal remains the same–to record thoughts, memories, and everyday events. Choose from apps like Day One (Mac, iOS, Android) or Journey (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, Web) to easily jot down your daily experiences or add photos and social media posts. Try out a few different journal apps to find one that suits your style and tech-savvy. A basic diary also doesn’t require a lot of features. Look for an intuitive entry process, automatic reminders (so you remember to use it!), and the ability to export in a common format such as PDF or text.

3. Save your social media posts as a journal

A great way to preserve diaries and journals is to link them with social media accounts.

Dedicated social media users are already documenting everyday life on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. The Momento app (iOS) imports social media feeds to create a searchable digital diary without additional work from the writer. Extra features such as reminders, timelines, summaries, and automatic cloud backup move journaling into the digital age. Momento encourages sharing with plain text export and the option to share photos and summaries on social media or via email or message apps.

4. Introduce the next generation to diary-keeping and bullet-journaling

Preserve diaries for future generations by giving children their own journals to start.

Help create tomorrow’s heirlooms by gifting special children in your life with their own personal journal. Kids love books with lock and key, along with a colorful gel-pen or set of colored pencils. Teens like the great colors and generous pages of larger-format books made by Moleskine and Leuchtturm. Although today’s students might be more proficient with a keyboard, there’s a growing fascination with old-school handwriting using modern bullet-journal techniques.

5. Explore diary pages in-depth with scanned images

Scan pages to digitally preserve diaries and old journals

Preserve diaries and journals by going digital. Create a copy of your ancestor’s diary by scanning or photographing the cover and inside pages. View the digital images to discover clues to your family history. Use the image zoom and contrast adjustment features of your image viewer to enhance old handwriting and faded ink. Remember that a personal journal is not infallible. People often mis-remember dates or events. Therefore, you may find conflicting information. Use it like any new genealogical data–transcribe, analyze and correlate the information before adding it to your family tree.

6. Recreate a beloved diary or journal as a photo book

Preserving diaries and journals by turning them into photo books.

Share an old family diary with other relatives! Create a reproduction edition using digital images of the cover and inside pages. First, scan each page at 600 dpi in full color. Use TIFF format as archival copies and convert the images to JPG to upload for photo books, email, and web. Next, upload JPG images to a photo book site like Shutterfly.com or Mixbook.com and select a book similar in size and shape to the original. Recreate the diary with digital images, using scanned images of blank pages as needed to preserve the original page order. (Follow step-by-step instructions for creating a reproduction book in How to Archive Family Photos, available from the FamilyTree Store.) Finally, add a family tree or a brief biography of the diary’s author to give the book more context for your readers. Most online photo book services offer a share feature that makes it easy to invite relatives to view the book and order their own copies.

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