Once you have taken on the challenge of doing a story project and having worked through the first step of deciding what you want to do, you have a pretty good idea of what you want your story project to be. Now it is time to gather and organize everything you have that might help you complete this project. Find any photos, documents, letters, etc. that you or your family already have. If you are already fairly organized this might be a simple step. But if you are like most of us, your family documents and photos are not very orderly and they are in many places.
Have a long-term strategy:
Take some time to think about a long-term organizing philosophy so that anything you do now will work towards that goal. I don’t recommend trying to put all of your family photos and documents in order before you tackle this story project. If you try to do that you might never get to the project. But if you have a plan in mind than with each story project your documents and photos will be come more and more organized and more easily accessible.
With this long-term plan in mind sort through you family memorabilia for those items that might be useful for this project. Those items like photos and documents will need to be scanned. Some other items may work in a scanner but others will need to be photographed. Make sure your scan resolution is at least 300 dpi depending on the size of the image and the project you have in mind. While usually jpeg is a good format, tiff files are better for long-term preservation and storage. It will be easiest in the long run if you come up with a good naming convention for your images that you can remember and give you the information you need. Metadata is a great place to store the little details about the images. If you are familiar with metadata you can add that later. Besides letters and journals it is good to transcribe them too.
Share your images:
While all this can be tedious remember that by scanning them you are helping to make sure that these priceless items are saved for the future even if something should happen to the original. Sharing your images with your family is a great way to help insure that no disaster will destroy all the existing copies.
Repeat with extended family:
Having digital files to share with your family could also help to smooth the road for you to get access to any items that they might have that would be helpful for your story project. There are good portable scanners that make it possible to visit a relative and scan their collection without those precious items ever having to leave their possession. Find any family histories that have previously been written. Also check for online sources of information from extended family.
So what shape is your family archive in? While I’ve made progress over the years I still have lots to do. I’ll keep working on it and slowly it will get there, one project at a time. Do you have a file naming convention that you like? I’d love to hear about it. I’m still not happy with what I’m currently doing.