Tag Archives: preserving

From the Archives: Act Now to Save and Store Your Old Photos.

Act Now to Save and Store Your Old Photos. If you’re like me, you’ve inherited old photo albums with the pictures held down on so called magnetic pages. The trouble with these albums  is that the adhesive used and the plastic liners damage the photos over time. Removing the photos is a priority. I went looking for help and boiled my research down to these seven essential steps. Step 1. Before attempting any photo removal make certain to scan digitally  each album page so that should a … Read More

From the Archives: Our Favorite Things Have Stories to Tell.

Our Favorite Things Have Stories to Tell. This past week I’ve been reminded how much our treasured possessions are a window into the stories of our life. My frail, ninety-one year old mother has  started to go through her modest collection of jewelry. She’s carefully trying to match each piece with a relative or friend she thinks would appreciate having it after she has died.   As I was sitting with her, she began telling me the stories behind each piece. There are the art deco black-and-white … Read More

My Top 10 Posts of 2010.

In the past twelve months these are the posts that have ranked as the most popular with  readers.  If you’ve missed some of these, now’s  your chance to catch up over the holidays. Enjoy!

  1. How Much Should You Pay A Personal Historian?
  2. Your Photo Restoration Resource List.
  3. 15 Great Memoirs Written by Women.
  4. 5 Print-On-Demand Sites You’ll Want to Consider.
  5. #1 Secret to Getting More Clients.
  6. 5 Top Sites for Free Online Videography Training.
  7. How to Interview Someone Who Is Terminally Ill: Part One.
  8. How to Salvage a Damaged Audio Cassette.
  9. Warning: Using Copyright Music Without Permission Is Illegal.
  10. How to Make Your Life Story Workshop Memorable.

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Part One. Life Stories and Palliative Care: Your Questions Answered.

I recently participated in the Association of Personal Historians annual conference in Victoria, BC. One of my presentations was  Life Stories as Healing: Working in an End-of-Life Environment. In the workshop we looked at some of the skills needed and challenges faced in providing life stories for patients receiving palliative care.

Near the end of our session I asked participants to write down one “burning question” they wanted answered. We  had time for only a few. I decided that for those who didn’t have their questions answered I would deal with them here. I thought that those of you who weren’t at my workshop might also appreciate seeing the questions and answers. Next week I’ll tackle further questions in Part Two.

How does one set up a personal history program with a hospice?

There is no one right way to set up a program. Much will depend on the local circumstances. From my experience with Victoria Hospice  I’ve learned a few lessons and passed these along in two articles How to Establish a “Life Stories” Hospice Program. Part One and Part Two. For those of you interested in the possibility of a life stories program at your Hospice, these articles would be a good place to start.

Why not charge for life stories work at a hospice? Why should this work be voluntary?

If you’re a professional personal historian, you can request a fee from your Hospice for your services or provide it pro bono. That decision is really up to you and your Hospice.

As a rule, I don’t volunteer my professional services. What I do at Victoria Hospice is volunteer on a regular shift just like the other volunteers. I’ve been doing that for five years.

With regards to the Life Stories program I established, I trained 12 Hospice volunteers, nine of whom are actively engaged in the work. I designed and ran the training programs and for that I was paid my regular fee. I don’t do life story  interviews with patients unless there is no one else available.

I still continue to do the co-ordination of the program on a voluntary basis but I’m working to hand this over eventually to another volunteer. My goal is to have the Life Stories program be totally self sufficient without my involvement. From the beginning I made it clear to the Victoria Hospice administration that I wanted to see such a service succeed but that I did not want to continue to be involved in its day-to-day operation.

Are your hospice “Life Stories” volunteers paid and do the families pay for the service?

Our Life Stories volunteers, save one,  are not professional personal historians and are not paid. They do this work as part of their contribution to Victoria Hospice. We do not charge families for this service.

I should add that from the beginning we decided to keep the service as simple and as cost effective as possible. We only provide unedited audio interviews transferred to CDs. We also provide a list of resource people in the community that families can hire should they wish to do more with their interviews.

How long is a typical “Life Stories” interview session?

To be honest there isn’t really a typical session. So much depends on the condition of the patient. We don’t schedule more than an hour but sessions can be as short as 10 or 15 minutes if the patient is weak or drowsy.

What is the typical time it takes for your volunteers to complete a personal history project?

Again, there is no typical length of time. We tell patients that they can use up to 5 hours of interview time to tell their story. Some manage that and others become too ill to continue beyond an hour or two. So much depends on the overall health of  a patient  when they start the process.

Given the fact that our patients are frail, it can sometimes take 6 or more  weeks to complete 5 hours of interview.

What if the patient is resistant to talking at all?

Our Life Stories program is only offered to those Victoria Hospice patients who request it. At any time a patient may opt out of the Life Stories program if they find it not to their liking.

Next week watch for Part Two.

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Photo by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup check out PageKeeper. It’s the perfect gift for your bookworm friend. It’s already on my Christmas list! For a sobering and fascinating look at changing cultural touchstones, I recommend Beloit College Mindset List.

  • Story Development Ideas.“You have read, or heard me say, stories make a speech or sales presentation more interesting, memorable and ‘visual.’ Remember, your audience remembers what they ‘see’ in their minds more than the words you use. In my sales presentation training I recommend you call your satisfied clients and interview them about their experience of doing business with you.”
  • BBC Documentary: Memory Wars. “… oral history has been firmly associated with the voices of the ‘ordinary’ citizen – a view of turbulent times from the bottom up. It offers a different version of the unfinished business of the past, be it war, revolution or dictatorship.  In this two-part documentary Alan Dein explores how oral history collides with the official version that has been committed to history books – particularly in nations where the outcome is still bitterly contested.”
  • You Tube Time Machine.“The You Tube Time Machine is a collection of audio and video snippets from 1860 (that is NOT a typo!) through 2010 that provide a history of movies, videos, and sound recordings. I rather enjoyed looking at some of the older ones, before 1920. These are really corny and it is difficult to imagine anyone paying money to see them. However, when moving pictures were still a novelty, I guess it didn’t take much of a plot to entice audiences to watch.”
  • Study: Audio recordings of US history fading fast. “New digital recordings of events in U.S. history and early radio shows are at risk of being lost much faster than older ones on tape and many are already gone, according to a study on sound released Wednesday.”
  • Beloit College Mindset List. “Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall…The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since “digital” has always been in the cultural DNA, they’ve never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.”
  • 8 Bad Habits that Crush Your Creativity And Stifle Your Success. “…research shows that once you get beyond an I.Q. of about 120, which is just a little above average, intelligence and creativity are not at all related. That means that even if you’re no smarter than most people, you still have the potential to wield amazing creative powers. So why are so few people highly creative?”
  • PageKeeper. “I’ve used a PageKeeper bookmark for several years and love it. Once in place it stays put. You don’t have to do anything until you’ve finished reading whatever book you’ve put it in. It keeps your place for you without you having to move it, or dog-ear the page.”

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup, don’t miss photos and art and memory and books: this is personal history. It’s a link to a wonderful video that captures the heart of why we do what we do as personal historians. For those of you attending the APH Conference, you’ll want to check out Revisiting turn-of-the-century Kamloops. It looks at the book written by Robert Budd, one of this year’s keynote speakers.

  • Five Best Book Recommendation Services. “It’s disappointing to haul a book home from the library or shell out hard-earned cash at the bookstore only to settle in at home and find you don’t enjoy it one bit. Stock your reading list with these five great recommendation services.”
  • The Pivotal Point: Not Giving Up Too Soon. “There comes a point when being a business owner gets really hard (and I mean really hard). You’ve come up with your big idea, you’ve done all the initial legwork to set it up, and now comes the hard part: Getting the word out about your business and, more importantly, hanging in there while you get the word out about your business. The hard part now becomes not giving up too soon.”
  • photos and art and memory and books: this is personal history. “It’s the end of a busy couple of weeks where I have been focused on a lot of things–training and financials and marketing–everything except what I love the most: making books from photos and memories. I came across this fabulous project in my Facebook stream late last night and just had to share it with everyone I could think of.”
  • Our Canada – Our Stories.Canada 150 is a national, not-for-profit campaign to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017 by encouraging the recording and collecting of life stories, family histories as well as community and organization histories.”
  • Anecdote’s Story Finder Is a Treasure Trove. “I got a newsletter from Anecdote, the Australian consulting firm, that announced its Story Finder. There it was — a database with a slew of topics, arrange alphabetically, each topic with at least one story just a click away. What a fabulous resource!”
  • Favorite Historical Tweeps. “Twitter has tons of historical trivia to offer. These are some of the fun-to-follow history tweeps I’ve been enjoying.”
  • Revisiting turn-of-the-century Kamloops.Voices of British Columbia: Stories from Our Frontier…[is] a collection of tales from the pioneers and the first generation of people who lived and settled in B.C. The book is based on 2,700 hours of audio recordings by CBC Radio journalist Imbert Orchard, who travelled the province from 1959 to 1966 interviewing 998 pioneers…The book’s author, Robert Budd, said these are the stories of the fishermen, the road builders, the ranchers and miners…The book is accompanied by the audio recordings from the original interviews…At the time, he had no idea among those archives was one of the largest oral-history collections in the world — the Orchard collection.”

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Act Now to Save and Store Your Old Photos.

If you’re like me, you’ve inherited old photo albums with the pictures held down on so called magnetic pages. The trouble with these albums  is that the adhesive used and the plastic liners damage the photos over time. Removing the photos is a priority. I went looking for help and boiled my research down to these seven essential steps.

Step 1. Before attempting any photo removal make certain to scan digitally  each album page so that should a photo be damaged, you can still recover it from the scanned image.

Step 2. Select a practice photo that has no value to you or is badly out of focus. A word of caution. When removing  photos be sure not to curl or peel them back as this could cause permanent damage.

Step 3. Use a piece of dental floss and carefully pull it under one corner of the photo. Using a sawing motion slowly work your way to the opposite corner. With any luck the photo should pop right off.

Step 4. If  a photo is glued so tightly that floss won’t work, then try one of the following removal methods:

a. Use un-do, an adhesive remover that won’t harm photos. It comes with an applicator that allows you to slip the remover under the photo.

b. Place the album page in your freezer for a few minutes. The glue will become brittle, making it easier to remove the photo.

c. Use a hair dryer set on low heat. Run it back and forth on the back of the page holding the photo. Be careful not to overheat the photo as this could damage it. Once the glue has softened, quickly and carefully remove the picture.

d. Place the photo album page in a microwave. Make certain there are no metallic pieces. Start the microwave and run it for five seconds. Check the photo and keep using five  second blasts until the glue softens and the photo comes free.

Step 5. Take your photos and where possible  write on the back the following information: the names of people in the photo, their ages,  the year, the location, and the event. Avoid using a ball point pen as this could damage the photo. Use a soft lead pencil or an acid free pen available from a craft store.

Step 6. Digitally scan your photos, store them on your hard drive, and than upload them to a web based site like Flickr or Picasa. That way if your hard drive crashes, you won’t lose your digitized photos.

Step 7. Store your photos in cardboard photo boxes that pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). You can obtain such boxes at Archival Methods, Carr McLean, Light Impressions, Gaylord, and University Products. If you have a large collection, layer an acid free sheet of paper between each photo. Photos should be kept in a cool room with low humidity. That generally means keeping them out of attics and basements.

Photo by iStockphoto

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Our Favorite Things Have Stories to Tell.

braceletThis past week I’ve been reminded how much our treasured possessions are a window into the stories of our life. My frail, ninety-one year old mother has  started to go through her modest collection of jewelry. She’s carefully trying to match each piece with a relative or friend she thinks would appreciate having it after she has died.   As I was sitting with her, she began telling me the stories behind each piece. There are the art deco black-and-white earrings she bought to go with a very fashionable dress my father got her shortly after they were married. A silver bracelet brought back by my dad from Pakistan during WWII is tarnished but her memories of my dad’s war experiences remain vivid. Each piece unlocks a story in my mother’s life.

And then there was a colleague at Victoria Hospice who told me of a unique funeral celebration he attended. A friend of the deceased gave a eulogy that was built entirely around photos of the  shoes in the woman’s life. Each pair of shoes had a story to tell.

In The Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday, I read an essay entitled Family Ties. It tells the story of a son’s remembrance of his father through the neckties that were passed down to him. Here’s an excerpt:

The other day I was getting ready for work and went into my closet to get a tie…I reached for a brown-, blue- and white-striped tie and I remembered that it was one of my father’s. He died last year and shortly afterward my mother, who was almost 80, made the decision to sell the big house we all grew up in. It took her a while, but she finally tackled the job of cleaning out my father’s closets… My father had a lot of ties – dozens and dozens and dozens of them…. And so, on this morning, I found myself knotting my father’s tie, remembering how we stood in front of the mirror years ago, him teaching me how to get a half-Windsor just right. I smiled, knowing I might be the only person in the building that day with a tie on.

Another interesting use of objects to tell a story appeared on the NPR website. Entitled A Catalog — Literally — Of Broken Dreams, it reviews the book Important Artifacts by New York Times op-ed page art director Leanne Shapton.  The NPR article points out:

Foregoing narrative entirely, Shapton tells the story of a couple’s relationship in the form of a staggeringly precise ersatz auction catalog that annotates the common detritus of a love affair — notes, CD mixes, e-mails, photos, books— and places the objects up for sale…. In choosing the conceit of an auction catalog, Shapton reminds us that the story of love can be told through the things we leave behind, but also by the condition in which we leave them.

All of this got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a memoir or life story built around the special things someone possesses?  Something to keep in mind. Have you already done something like this? Love to hear from you if you have.

Photo by Kylie

The Life Story Quote of the Week.

supper table

It’s not about dinner but the kind of conversations you have with your family and the stories you tell.

Robyn Fivush ~ Professor of Psychology, Emory University

“The family is the first and most enduring group you belong to,” says Barbara Fiese, a psychology professor at Syracuse University. “It provides a sense of belonging for children, adolescents and adults so the individual doesn’t have to feel isolated.”

We help create this bond by sharing our  family stories from the past and the present. Research conducted by Dr. Robyn Fivush shows that parents who take the time to tell their children about family events, inside jokes, nicknames and family successes and failures  produce adolescents with higher self-esteem and self-confidence.

We owe it to our children not only to make dinner a time for the family to gather but also a time to share the richness of our family stories.

Photo by Kirsten Jennings

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The Life Story Quote of The Week.

memory room

So much happens to us all over the years.  So much has happened within us and through us.  We are to take time to remember what we can about it and what we dare.  That’s what taking the time to enter the room (called “Remember”) means, I think.  It means taking time to remember on purpose. It means not picking up a book for once or turning on the radio, but letting the mind journey gravely, deliberately, back through the years that have gone by but are not gone.  It means a deeper, slower kind of remembering; it means remembering as a searching and finding.  The room is there for all of us to enter if we choose.

Frederick Buechner, from Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons

I like Buechner’s phrase “to remember on purpose”.  It says to me that engaging in the recording of our life story or that of another is not a frivolous undertaking. It’s serious work. It requires that we take the time to reflect on life’s journey and by so doing not only leave a legacy but a clearer understanding of self.

Will you enter the room called “Remember”?

Photo by Max R

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