Mission: Memories

By Allison Dolan Premium

Memories are priceless, so it’s no surprise that preserving them has become a major part of our lives. Americans take 55 million photos each day (that’s 20 billion a year!), and more than a fifth of households save those pictures in memory albums. It’s become a booming business as well: The “scrap booking” phenomenon has ballooned to a $1.4 billion industry. We buy millions of scanners, digital cameras, camcorders and other high-tech tools annually.

While we’re continually embracing new methods and technologies to capture family memories, our motivation hasn’t really changed. It’s partly the fun of looking back and recalling specific moments in time. But there’s another, deeper desire behind our photos, scrapbooks, videos and other keepsakes: to immortalize some part of ourselves and our families, so future generations can know us in a way we wish we knew our ancestors.

The editors of Family Tree Magazine, America’s most popular family history publication, created this special issue on Preserving Your Memories with that mission in mind. In these pages, you’ll find all you need to know to save and share your family history — ways to turn family “artifacts” into timeless treasures.

One such treasure, of course, is a scrap-book, and we’ll show you how to create a heritage album your relatives will cherish. Our guide to “Crafting Your Past” breaks down the process into font easy steps, proving you don’t have to be a dedicated scrapbooker or professional artist to create an heirloom album. But before you start pasting your pictures, learn to maximize your album’s longevity with the eight safe-scrapbooking techniques.

Your heritage album or photo collection won’t hold much value for your relatives, though, unless you identify the people and stories behind them. If you have any mysterious old family pictures, the 10 photo-sleuthing secrets here will help you uncover names and dates for those puzzling images. Of course, you should identify’ those photos for your descendants safely — no scrawling labels on the backs of pictures with a ball point pen. That’s one of the 12 rules for smart photo storage you’ll find.

Not all memories are visual — some of the most colorful, revealing details of your family history are archived only in relatives’ minds. It’s crucial to uncover and preserve their stories now; you can get started with our guides to oral history interviewing and writing life stories.

Step-by-step instruction is a cornerstone of this issue, so we created a Tools and Techniques section to walk you through preservation basics. For example, protect your photos and documents with the encapsulation guide, and learn how to digitize, organize and archive your memories digitally with the multimedia tips.

Finally, to help you put this issue’s preservation plans into action, we’ve compiled a special directory of the best resources for saving and sharing your memories. You’ll find an extensive list of archival and scrapbooking suppliers who sell everything from deacidification spray to die cuts. Our glossary will help you understand the lingo surrounding the products — what terms such as archival-quality and photo-safe really mean, and why you need to know the difference between them. You’ll get a look at dozens of top genealogy, scrapbooking, autobiography and multimedia programs in our comprehensive software roundup. And we point you to Web sites and books where you can learn more about the family-photo, heritage-album and life story topics covered in this issue. You’ll see why there’s no time like the present to preserve the past.