Travel to virtually any town or city across America, and you’ll find a museum, library, or historical society celebrating our rich and illustrious history. From national institutions like the Smithsonian, to small, local curations and heritage sites, Americans are proud of their communities and culture.
The vast amount of heirlooms and relics are proof. According to the American Library Association (ALA), more than 4.8 billion artifacts are held in public trust by more than 30,000 archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, scientific research collections, and archaeological repositories in the United States. An additional, innumerable treasure trove of personal, family, and societal collections make that number even larger.
Unfortunately, just like an American bridge, road, or highway, our memories are prone to cracking and crumbling. In contrast to infrastructure, many cannot be rebuilt. The ALA says that a whopping quarter of the 21 million paintings, sculptures, and works of decorative art in the United States are in need of conservation treatment – or at least improved care and conditions.
If our most treasured American documents, paintings, and sculptures are at risk, think about how many family photo albums, films, scrapbooks, and quilts are susceptible to irreparable damage, too!
This is unacceptable – and it’s precisely how American Preservation Week was born.
Founded by the ALA, American Preservation Week calls for Americans to recommit themselves to the preservation of our memories, near and far – for the learning and enjoyment of future generations.
Why Is There a Whole Week Devoted to Preservation?
Besides the millions of items that are aging and require immediate attention and care, we’re also lacking the staff to complete the work. Some 80 percent of institutions do not have paid staff assigned to responsibility of collections care – and over 20 percent have no collections care personnel at all. Some 2.6 billion items are not protected by an emergency plan, and should a disaster strike, whether it’s manmade or natural – they are immediately at risk.
The same goes with family and community collections. The solution? Create awareness about the issue in order to encourage and empower local governments, libraries, museums, and people to preserve our personal and shared collections.
This blog is part of it! Here at OXO, we’re committed year-round to protecting memories, print and digital. That’s why, along with ALA, we’re sharing real, tangible ways that you can honor Preservation Week and your American memories.
Preserving Your Physical & Print Collection Tips:
- Avoid temperature and humidity damage. Don’t store keepsakes in the attic or basement, and make sure you keep them out of hot cars and storage units without climate control. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t live in it, don’t put your collections in it, either.
- Minimize handling and always make sure your hands are clean when you do.
- Protect items from dust, light, and dirt by using folders, acid-free boxes, or polyester sleeves. Avoid plastic containers and sleeves that smell like a new shower curtain (PVC); safe and inert plastics include polyethylene and polypropylene.
- Store originals safely – and use copies for display. Distribute print copies geographically to family members, and make print photocopies of important documents.
- Label everything clearly and completely. Use pencil when writing on the back of photos and identify people, places, and dates in detail. Instead of writing “Mom”, write her full name – you never know who might be looking at the memories later on.
Digital Preservation Tips:
- Back up multiple copies of your data on multiple types of media (like USB drives, preservation-quality disks, and the cloud, for example), and store them in multiple locations.
- Name and organize your files clearly and completely – and add to the file’s metadata.
- Migrate and refresh files when you get new software packages or a new operating system.
- Select and save only files that are important to you.
- Save photos and image files in stable, non-proprietary formats like .jpg, .png, or .tif.
- Never use rewritable discs for long-term storage.
You can also review ALA’s complete digital preservation guide for more information.
If you’re unsure about how to store or copy, feel free to contact us – if you aren’t local to the central Florida area, we can even help connect you to someone close to you.
Celebrate Preservation Week! Things to Do:
Celebrate and learn during American Preservation Week with the following activity ideas:
- Attend Free, On-Demand Preservation Webinars Here: http://www.ala.org/alcts/preservationweek/webinars
- Have a free minute or two? Dust the tops of your books to minimize pests and mold.
- Participate in a home movie day to share your memories with family and/or your community.
- Read our Blog on 3 Steps to Organizing Photos and Vital Info.
- Attend “Preserving Family Memories” this Saturday, 4/30! If you’re in the Orlando area, the Preserving Family Memories event is for you. Join us from 10:30-noon at the Maitland Public Library for this FREE event, where you can learn simple tips to protect your photos and documents, hear from local experts on topics like backup and digitizing, and as a bonus, get up to 50 of your loose photos or documents scanned at no charge!
The pros at EZ Photo Scan will be there to assist with scanning and answer any question you may have. Kodak Alaris will provide the high speed scanners to unlock the power of your photos! Click here for more information.
You can also follow the conversation online using #preswk.
Tell us: Are you preserving your memories properly? What is one photo, document, or family heirloom you own that you want to protect for generations to come?