As Denise Levenick has so beautifully illustrated in her book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, a good part of our family “stuff” is an historical record of our lives and those of our ancestors. Those of us who have taken on the challenge of preserving our family archives have worked hard to protect our treasures and to digitize them so they can be shared with others. Add to that the research, blog posts and family stories we have generated and our archives have even more value.
Thanks to our efforts, there is now a significant amount of personal historical artifacts in digital formats. Yes, there are a number of platforms that would like to “help” us organize and present this content in a manner that will also help them generate some revenue, but I’m surprised that universities and other archives have shown little interest. While local historical and genealogical societies would seem to be the logical starting point for building collections of personal archives, many have little knowledge or experience in the digital world and may not even be aware of the potential value their members’ collections offer. Even if they don’t have the expertise or budget to create and maintain a digital archive, they could negotiate a joint effort with a nearby university that could provide benefits to everyone.
I think it’s time to start lobbying our societies and local educational institutions to support our efforts to preserve our personal archives. Not only would it give family history more exposure but it could also become a real solution to what happens to our family archives after we are gone.