Personal Project: The Kilmer-Tuttle Family Archives

Hi everyone! I wanted to share a personal project my sister and I have (finally) made a start on… The Kilmer-Tuttle Family Archives (or Trove as we really refer to it). If you are following Modern Memorykeeper on Instagram or Facebook, you have no doubt noticed a tip a day being shared as September is “Save Your Photos Month”. Today, I wanted to elaborate on the tip for Day #11 which was “Inventory”. This past July, my sister brought over the boxes that she had of our mother’s families items and we combined them with the items I had and stacked them all up on the dining room table.

…I am fairly sure we may discover a few more things as my sister cleans out her basement, but we have made a good start. The process is actually fairly simple, and we worked through everything in a few hours.

  • #1 Find what you can, trust me, start with what you have and you can always add to your pile later. If you wait to find everything, you might never start.
  • #2 Gather your items all together in one place where you can work and spread out. If you have a large number of items and not a lot of space to work, sort things into groupings and review things by group.
  • #3 Pick a pile and start, honestly we just worked from left to right, top to bottom. Once we’d finished with a piece it was moved off of the table into a box or stack to be stored. This way there is no confusion if we’d already looked at something.
  • #4 Document, I hand wrote notes in a notebook including who the item belonged to (if I knew), description, condition, and notes on what was in the album/envelope and initial ideas on what we might want to do with the item. I also included where the item will be stored in my home, to make retrieval easier. I will know exactly where a particular item is. I also photographed each item, albums had their covers photographed for identification and one or two photographs of the insides as a reminder of what the album contained.
  • #5 Consolidate / Conserve, There were some items, like framed photographs, where I removed the photographs from the frames and discarded the frames (which were falling apart) and slipped the photographs into archival envelopes for later scanning. Wherever we could consolidate items, we did. Several other items that were really old and fragile were sleeved and carefully tucked into storage boxes.
  • #6 Store, we had decided since I have the equipment, for now I am taking possession of all of the items and scanning / photographing everything. My sister took a few items back home with her to research value. We boxed up all of the smaller items together and tucked them into their new home and the albums were put back into their resting space in a dark cabinet in a corner of the living room where they will be un-disturbed until it’s time to digitize them.

#4 Document, you don’t have to make it fancy, a quick snap with your cellphone is enough.

#5 Consolidate and conserve Framed photos were removed from their frames and loose photos gathered into archival envelopes for later scanning.

After everything was stored away, I made a simple spreadsheet from my notes and the photographs. All the information is in one place, and includes a photograph of the item as well as all of our notes. I printed out a copy for my project binder, and put a copy in dropbox to share with my sister. We’ll use this document to help us decide what we’d like to work on first and what we’d like to try and share with family members or other organizations.

We wanted to keep this process quick and simple and just get an idea of what we had to work with. Now we feel like we can take our time digitizing items and discussing how we want to preserve and share things. This approach is simple and flexible, and I highly recommend working through an inventory and taking some time to look at what you have before you dig in and restore or digitize your items.

If you are finding you are overwhelmed with your collection and don’t know where to start, I’d love to help you inventory your families collection and get you started enjoying your families photographs and memorabilia and telling your family stories. Contact me at sue@modernmemorykeeper.com to get started.

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