Found Ephemera

frances-collage
Collage graphic created for a story about Frances Georgina Scott Barrett.

I have found that a compelling graphic is a great way to attract attention to a family story. In the example above, a cousin shared her portrait of Frances giving me an opportunity to embellish a story I was writing about her time in Mississippi. The collage shows a map of the area in Mississippi where the family settled and the riverboat adds a bit of “atmosphere”.

Finding these elements isn’t difficult, but it can be time consuming. Vintage design elements are perfect for these projects. And, there are lots of public domain sources available for them. Yes, it took a bit more time and effort to build my project, but I don’t have to worry about legal problems or spend a lot of money for commercial licenses.

Start with what you’ve got. Family letters, envelopes, journal pages, even pages from old ledgers or deposit receipts can become interesting design elements. Scan blank ledgers or diary pages to use behind your own journaling. Old tags, note cards and other ephemera can also be put to good use. Photograph jewelry against contrasting paper to make it easy to “extract” the item from the background and use it on a page. Yes, it will take time to do these things, but once created they can be used over and over again in different projects.

StandardGuideAd
Advertisement in a 19th century tourist guide.

Lots of periodicals from the late 19th century can be found at Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive and Google Books. You can find some gorgeous illustrations in magazines like Harper’s Weekly, Colliers and Scribners, and quite possibly something related to the area or period of time you are documenting in your project. I found architectural journals with plans and sketches of some of our local buildings. There is also a wealth of graphic ornaments. And don’t forget the advertisements either. You might find a business or product advertised that fits into your family story.

Flickr, the photo-sharing platform, is a fabulous resource. At Flickr Commons you will find photo and graphic collections from archives, museums, libraries and organizations around the world. Flickr’s search feature is impressive and even makes it possible to restrict your search to public domain images.

You may find vintage clipart online at the digital scrapbooking shops. Before purchasing, check their licensing/terms of use policy. If they don’t say anything about online and PDF usage, ask. I’ve had good luck with the growing number of graphics shops on Etsy like EclecticAnthology and Swiejko. One of my favorite sources is graphic designer, Cathe Holden, and her divine Just Something I Made blog. She’s always doing something creative and she not only shares her project ideas, but she shares all kinds of design elements too. You’ll find a lot of these graphic “sheets” in her Scribd library.

hzgraphic

While you may need to learn additional skills – especially in the area of screen capture – you will find many ways to put these new skills to good use. And, you’ll craft a family history that is truly unique. It’s well worth the effort!

The Family News Network

If you’re like us, you’ve got family spread across the country and maybe even overseas. Although the costs to travel mean we don’t get together as often as we would like, that doesn’t mean we haven’t found creative ways to stay involved with far-away family and friends. Facebook has revolutionized how we can “keep up” with each other, but it does have serious privacy and security issues. I’m not about to share my vacation photos on Facebook because it sends an open invitation to crooks that my house empty and easy prey. Personal news like new babies and deaths in the family can give con artists the information they need to rob us blind. I still enjoy Facebook. I just don’t put much personal stuff out there.

Our family has been building its own family communications network. Some of it was intentionally set up, but a lot of it has just happened. For example, we have used Skype – a lot – to make video calls. It’s great to visually participate in birthday parties and other special events even when we can’t be there. Today, there are a growing number of web-enabled televisions offering both a high-def webcam add-on and Skype access. Imagine that same birthday party on a big screen tv! Skype supports free group calls too. Up to ten users can participate in a group call – audio or video. Skype’s text messenger component can be used in conjunction with an audio or video call to share photos or files while you’re talking.

As more and more in our family have moved to iThings, Skype is being augmented with FaceTime. We can even FaceTime directly to the grandkids through their iPod Touches. Although FaceTime doesn’t support group calls, the combination of FaceTime and Messages – sort of SMS and IM on steroids – make it easy get “status updates” just about any time. And, while nothing’s totally secure or private, it’s a much better option than Facebook.

We also use Posthaven to maintain a family news service. It functions as both a mailing list and a family journal and is so easy even the most digitally-challenged can participate. Here’s where birth announcements, family news and vacation pics are shared. Because posting is done via email, it’s a mobile-friendly platform that works well for posting vacation updates. Posthaven will cost $5.00 a month to use, but each account supports up to ten blogs.

invitation
A Christmast invitation delivered via Posthaven.

For our photo archive, we use Flickr. You can define who can see your photos and Flickr has a group feature that lets a group of Flickr users share selected photos to one or more groups. Flickr supports private groups which are only visible to group members. One of the nice things about using a group is that group members can see all the photos shared to their group regardless of the privacy settings the owner set for them. This means I can post my current vacation photos privately, yet members of our Flickr family group will be able to see any of them that I share with the group. Yahoo has increased the storage limit for free accounts to 1 terabyte (the equivalent of approximately 560,000 photos) making it a good off-site storage option for our photo collection as well.

Flickr Family Album.png

Our network combines easy apps and platforms with a comfortable level of privacy and security. It allows everyone to participate regardless of their digital skills. Best of all, it allows us to stay involved with our families both near and far. No, there won’t be letters handed down to generations to come, but the family web site, photo archives and other cloud-based services will take their place to provide a rich record of our lives.

Ain’t technology great!

Eyes out and watch your sector by The U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers conduct a security halt during a foot patrol at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Jan. 28, 2017.

The 173rd is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deploying forces to the U.S. Army Europe, Africa and Central Command Areas of Responsibility within 18 hours. The Brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build stronger relationships and strengthen the alliance.

U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger http://flic.kr/p/RnDUPA