Friday, December 27, 2013

The Importance Of Archives

To my son Tommy,

Your PopPop and I were talking about genealogy the other day.  I turned your grandfather onto some ancestry sites and even gave him my tree to start off with.  I was pretty far back on my sides but just starting on your mom's ancestral sides.  He started adding his records that he already had and has taken off with it.  He is pretty avid about this hobby where I realized a couple years ago that my free time right now is probably better spent making some family memories than dragging out facts of the past.  Don't get me wrong, both are important and fun but since PopPop is retired he has a little more extra time than I do.

Anyways it got me thinking of how important archives and what information we deem worthy of saving.  Being a pack rat by nature, I have boxes and boxes of information that probably won't do me any good because it isn't easily accessible.  When I give an hour or so to clean up, I am always impressed and at the same time confounded by what I have saved.  Receipts, old magazine articles, flyers, letters, useless gadgets and gizmos that had I been using the past year would have made my life easier, etc, etc.  Unfortunately, due to that 24 hours in a day limit that everyone seems to have to abide by, much of the contents of the boxes go back onto my procrastination list.  I also have a memory that is overflowing with information that I should document but again that takes time  Plus if you start looking into the corners of my mind, who knows what will come out of the cobwebs.  It really is a shame and worse yet, the sorting of this information will probably all fall to you to do long after I am gone.

So as you grow and collect information and knowledge, remember the importance of having a good system to store and archive all this information for later use.  There are dozens of tools out there to help you, but the real thing behind any good tool or system is your own dedication and resolve.  Make sure you don't just throw stuff in a shoebox saying, "I will put that in the family tree when I have time" or something to those ends.  Evaluate the info immediately and record it some place where it can be easily retrieved and thus useful at a later time.  Maybe you will break the chain of descendants having to spend so much time to decipher and figure out all the loose ends their dads left them.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

P.S. If you want an example of a well done and worthwhile archive look up StoryCorp at the Library of Congress.  It archives real people with real stories in their own real words.  But more importantly, it often archives the intangible.  It archives love.  And that is something worth archiving well!

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