From the Archives: Miss Kate’s Autograph Book

I created this little book to preserve and share Mary Katherine Link’s autograph book which I inherited from my grandmother. Miss Kate was her aunt – her father’s sister. My grandmother was only 5 years old when her mother died and Miss Kate stepped in to take on the task of surrogate mother to four young children. She did this while continuing to teach school. She was quite an amazing lady.

Miss Kate’s autographs date from the late 19th century, showing the affection and respect she she enjoyed in her community. The book’s binding is disintegrating and many of the pages are now loose. Before packing it away in an archival box to protect it from further deterioration, I scanned the book with plans to create a booklet from the images so any interested family members could have a copy of their own.

The book was created using OpenOffice.org’s Writer app and Photoshop Elements. My images were cropped and re-sized, then inserted into the booklet document. I added a short biography written by my cousin, Nancy Murphy, and the only photo I have of Miss Kate. After adding a cover and exporting everything to PDF, I uploaded the result to Lulu. Not only does Lulu offer both print and download options, they provide the storefront allowing family and friends to order/download their copies without having to go through me first. By offering the print version at cost, I could provide the download version for free.

Several people downloaded copies and I had a few printed to distribute to older family members and the historical society where Miss Kate lived, but after a few months there was no further activity for this booklet on the Lulu site. In 2009 I moved the document to the Scribd platform. While it doesn’t offer a print option (except to print on your local printer), it’s much easier for search engines to find – thanks to the ability to tag the document with keywords that facilitate searching.

We all have family ephemera in our collections. Consider using them to build e-pubs to share with family members and to publish online at platforms like Scribd which could help attract research cousins. Miss Kate’s autograph book won’t change the world, but to descendants of the Link family and the Tennessee community where they lived it helps bring their ancestors to life. If that’s not enough reason, you’ll also be creating an “off-site” archive of your family treasures should disaster strike at home.

 

Create a Digital Family Treasure Chest

As I look around my office I see dozens of family treasures ranging from portraits and other artwork to souvenirs of our travels to pieces of furniture. Every one of these pieces has an associated story. I know the stories to many – but not all – of these treasures because either I was there when one was acquired or someone else passed the story along with the piece.

And, just because they are in my possession doesn’t mean I’m the only person interested in them. I have siblings, cousins and friends who also have connections to many of these treasures. How can we all share these items – and the collected knowledge associated with them? By taking advantage of some very simple digital tools and a family-friendly blog platform, we can build a digital family treasure chest and post scanned or photographed copies of these treasured items in a controlled environment that’s only accessible to family and selected friends.

TelegraphTreasures

Since privacy and simplicity are the two primary requirements for any private family site, I’ve chosen Posthaven as the platform for my treasure chest. Most of my family aren’t about to visit a family site on a regular basis and the concept of posting content to a web site is like expecting them to become proficient in Latin. Ain’t . . . gonna . . . happen. Most site members receive site updates via email and can reply with their comments or send a fresh email message which Posthaven will treat as a new “post”. The collective conversation is maintained online in the family’s private blog.

Posthaven simplifies access management too. Only the site manager needs to have an account. Others are welcome to set up their profiles – and include passwords for access to the site’s work area. Everything else is managed by email. Posts are only delivered to the addresses identified as members. The site manager adds members by entering their email address and defining whether they are members (can only view content) or contributors (can view, comment and submit).

To post content, contributors just send an email message to the site’s email address. The subject line of the message becomes the title and the content of the message becomes the body of the post. In the example above, the two photos were attached to the email message and Posthaven automatically set up for display online and via email. Video attachments will be embedded in the post and even document attachments are included as embedded Scribd documents.

Email recipients who wish to comment on a message/post can do that by hitting reply to the original email message. All members will receive a copy of the reply and it will be attached as a comment to the original post online.

Any blog platform can work as a home for your family’s digital treasure chest, but Posthaven is so easy and flexible that you are quite likely to find comments from family members who wouldn’t think of commenting on “normal” blog sites. Posthaven will cost you $5.00 a month but your account will support up to 10 blogs at no extra cost. To learn more about Posthaven, download my Posthaven Primer. It’s free!

From the Archives: Scrapbooking with Keynote

I love the scrapbook format for telling family stories. It supports lots of photos yet provides room for captions and journaling. I discovered I already had a great scrapbooking app installed on my desktop – my presentation software. Since I’m a Mac user, my presentation app is Keynote, but all of the presentation apps [PowerPoint, OpenOffice’s Impress and WordPerfect’s Presentations] have the features needed to scrapbook.

Create custom family charts by taking advantage of the shapes tool that allows you to include any number of different shapes on your slides. This chart was made using the rounded box shape. Once the first shape is created, just copy/paste it wherever you want it.

In this example, shapes were used for design elements – the frame for the photo and the circles for the ampersand. Not only can you add color to your shapes, but you can also “cover” them with other graphic images. In this case the frame is covered with a purchased “paper” graphic. Both the paper and the graphic elements above and below the photo are from Paislee Press.

Keynote offers tools that make it easy to do lots of cool things with your images. Both the blurred frame around my grandmother’s portrait and the torn frame for the class picture are standard Keynote elements. Keynote even has the function (it’s called Instant Alpha) that let me remove the sky from the schoolhouse photo so it could become part of the slide’s background.

But design isn’t the only way presentation software is so versatile. You have lots of distribution options too. If you’ve used high-resolution images and graphics, you can print and bind your scrapbook. You can also convert it to PDF and share it easily by email or online download. Most presentation apps let you export each slide as an image which can then be presented using a digital frame. Another export option is as a movie although this is better when there’s less text involved. Of course the best way to view these scrapbooks is on a tablet where the reader can enjoy every detail at his own pace. Yes, scrapbooking with Keynote is a great way to combine images, text and charts to create a family history that few can resist.