Preservation Week is an annual celebration that began in 2012 with the American Library Association and is celebrated in libraries, museums, and households around the country.
The theme for this year is Preserving Oral Histories, and it's a fantastic reminder to examine your own family's heritage through objects and personal items that hold special memories. There are many ways you can do this, and potentially clean out a closet or two along the way!
Consider location and storage.
The first thing to consider with any item or object you value is location. Try to store special items in places where they won't be easily damaged, like basements (which can flood) or attics (which can have dramatic temperature changes). Every object has different needs, so try to store yours in the best location possible. Visit this object type link to learn the best ways to store and preserve your valuables.
Life isn't always perfect, and we know that sometimes we have to store items in less-than-ideal locations. No judgment! Life happens! If that's the case, try to make smart choices. For example, if you have to store objects in the basement, keep them in a water-tight container and as high as possible. Avoid keeping objects on the floor. Remember, water always runs down, and you don't want to lose something you value to a leak or small flood. Basements tend to be damp, so if you can, invest in a dehumidifier to keep things as dry as possible. Regardless of where you're storing objects, make sure the container they're in is clean to discourage pests and check it regularly for signs of damage. Left unchecked, a mouse or a moth can do significant amounts of harm.
Create memory aides.
While you're sorting your items to store, take a few minutes to help future-you: If you have pictures of family members or close friends, write their names on the back in pencil. Avoid using a pen as ink may not be pH neutral and can do long-term harm. You can also add a few details about where the photo was taken and why the memory attached to it is so important. Do something similar with objects—If you have a family heirloom, such as a quilt or piece of tableware, add an index card with a written memory in the storage box. Future-you will be grateful for any memory aides you can provide now! (And doing this may help you clean out a closet as an added bonus!)
Share memories with loved ones.
While many of us are quarantined, take some time to chat with an elderly relative about shared memories and special moments in their life. These conversations can take place over the phone or can be written down to help social distancing! Chatting will keep you both entertained and you may learn more about the important people in your life. If you can, show a special object or share a photo with your relatives and ask them about their memories. Grandma's lamp or your Great Uncle's watch may have more memories or stories attached to it than you originally knew! If you can, take a few minutes and jot down these memories and add them to the storage box. Future-you or the next family member who inherits the object will appreciate the knowledge and care you've taken!
Appoint who will care for the family archives.
While you're sorting, consider this: Who will care for this object next? This might be the perfect time to appoint a "Family Archives Heir." That sounds fancy, but it's really just the person or people who will care for your special things as much as you have. You can start that conversation at any point, and it will help share your memories of a person or event with someone else.
If you'd like to learn more about Preservation Week, view this list of free webinars offered by the American Library Association. There are topics for everyone and you can learn more about saving objects and their memories for the next generation. There's also a free webinar from the Illinois Library entitled Preserving Your Family Heirlooms that's designed for the public on April 30, 2020.