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11 Creative Ways to Preserve Your Family’s History

 

Have you been thinking about preserving your family’s history, but aren’t sure where to start? Here are 11 fun and creative ideas that will motivate you to kick the project off today:

  1. Turn Photo Albums Into Memory Books. Instead of simply slapping your photographs into an album, create a memory book by including a brief story about each picture and identifying everyone in it. Viewers, especially future family members, will be grateful for the explanations of who’s who and what they’re doing. Be sure to use acid-free products so that your memory book will endure for many years to come.
  2. Create Heirloom Jewelry. Jewelry doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. You can turn everyday pieces into heirlooms by linking each to a specific interest, moment, or event in your life. Think about collecting charms for a bracelet or adding a photo of a special relative to a locket.
  3.  Grow Family Memories. Are you an avid gardener?  Whether you grow prize-winning American Beauty roses or the ubiquitous zucchini, you can encourage and pass the love of gardening on to the next generation. Share some seeds or a cutting from a plant with a family member. Bake or cook with a young relative, using the bounty of your garden.
  4. Share the Love of Food. Write out favorite family recipes—Grandma Sarah’s corn bread, Aunt Mary’s turkey stuffing, your mother’s prize-winning strawberry shortcake—on pretty recipe cards. Or collect them in a book.  Add your memories of the times these dishes were served and savored and what made them so special to you and your family. The collected recipes and stories would make a wonderful gift for a newly married relative or young adult setting up a new home.
  5. Document Family Heirlooms. Do you own something that once belonged to an ancestor? Does that item hold great meaning to you? Ensure that future generations know its history by documenting it. Write down everything you know about the piece, including how it came into the family and who has owned it over the years. This is a great way to connect your descendants with the past. Be sure to keep the written record with the item. Check out the Heirloom Registry for an easy way to record the items.
  6. Set up a Family Photo Gallery. Are vintage photographs of your ancestors lying in dusty shoeboxes or hiding in old photo albums? Bring them out into the open. Local craft shops sell a variety of frames at a reasonable cost, and for just a little investment of time and money your gallery will generate interest, curiosity, and pleasure for your family members. Be sure to use acid-free matting and hang pictures away from the sun’s destructive light.
  7. Craft a Comforting Memorial. If you can thread a needle you can create a beautiful tribute to a deceased family member by making a teddy bear or quilt from a shirt or other item of clothing that they wore. This can provide great comfort and solace to others following the loss of a loved one. And the newly crafted item becomes a family heirloom that continues to tell the story of that family member’s life.
  8. Use Technology to Tell Your Story. Using video or audio recording equipment to preserve stories and memories is easier than you might think. First, make a list of stories you would like to talk about. Then set up the video or audio recorder, make sure to eliminate any competing sounds (e.g., ticking clocks, humming refrigerator), and tell your stories. If you prefer to focus on pictures, there are plenty of computer programs that can help you easily create a slide show from your family photos. Looking for some help? The friendly staff at Reel Tributes is just a phone call away.
  9. Proudly Display Family Documents. My husband’s great-great-grandfather was the justice of the peace in Hardin County, Kentucky, after the Civil War. Fortunately, his Official Certification from the state of Kentucky was passed on to my husband. I had it framed, and this bit of my husband’s family history is now displayed on a wall in our home—next to my husband’s honorary discharge papers from the U.S. Army.
  10. Write an Ethical Will. Just as a Last Will and Testament is a tool to pass on the “stuff” of life, an ethical will is a tool to pass on personal beliefs, values, life lessons, and blessings. Ethical wills have been with us for more than 2,000 years; authentic and readable ethical wills dating back to 1200 A.D. are still valuable for their literary content. This document has been found to be a tremendous blessing to family and friends.  Check out www.ethicalwill.com for information on how to write your own ethical will.
  11. Engage the Younger Generation. Kids have stories to tell as well. Ask your children or grandchildren what is important in their lives right now and record what they say, either with pen and paper or with an audio or video recorder. Not only will you learn a lot, but future generations will also be interested in what they have to say.

However you choose to preserve your family’s history, begin now.  Don’t let good intentions be just that. Cherish the role of preserver of memories for your family. You won’t regret it for a second.

Do you have other creative ideas to share? We, at Reel Tributes, would love to hear them.

Eisensteins in the Attic: Rediscovering Your Own Film Treasures (Guest Blogger)

Clack…..clack…..clack…clack..clack clack/clack/clack….

We all know the sound of an old 8mm or 16mm projector throwing Kodachrome home movies up on a wall. For all too brief a moment we look into a coruscating window on a lost or fast disappearing past. Images roll in: jump cuts, lens flares, shaky camera work. We squint maybe, trying to improve the focus. Real, but also somehow surreal, those old film images; transporting and magical.

That time machine costs how much?

I think of old home movies as a kind of time machine – but a time machine that really exists. What would we pay for just such a machine if we didn’t have one?

What wouldn’t we spend to peer through a time tunnel at our old grandpa digging in his “victory garden”, or to see mother on her wedding day? Old home movies are exactly that time machine, and yet we don’t always know – or value – what we have.

Dan Streible knows a thing or two about old movies. He is a professor of film at New York University and the founder of the Orphan Film Symposium – the biennial gathering of scholars, archivists, curators, and media artists devoted to saving, screening, and studying neglected moving images.

Dan says people underestimate the value and power of home movies – “these millions of feet of rediscovered family films, the millions of feet of film shot by mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and friends throughout the 20th century (that) now make up the best record we have of daily life as it was lived during the past two or three generations.”

Of course, he is talking about other people’s home movies. And if you are lucky enough to have some of your own? Well, chances are they would be like Eisensteins in the Attic – dusty masterpieces of their kind left unwatched and slowly disintegrating*.

Priceless images in dusty boxes

Priceless images are stowed away in shoe boxes all across America, locked up in now unplayable film formats like Super 8, 16mm and 8mm; or in early cassette formats like Video8, Hi8 and Digital 8.

And if you did take the trouble 10 years back to convert to VHS, S-VHS or VHS-C? Then you did a great thing. But VHS is now obsolete; and sadly, the quality of VHS was poor from the start. You’ll get a much better result today retransferring from the original films or video cassettes.

The good news of course is that every old film and video cassette format can now be converted to digital video. Most people get their old home movies transferred to DVD. But here’s a tip: When you go to the expense of transferring, why not create an uncompressed video master file and get that put on a hard drive. (Uncompressed video is the best quality you can achieve.) Then, use those home movie master files to create your DVD, your YouTube or iPhone video (or whatever else becomes the device de jour).

Turn home movies into a personal documentary

And best of all, you can use that home movie master file to help create your own personal or family history documentary – your “Reel Tribute”. The only thing then remaining is to dim the lights, toss in the DVD, and become transported into “a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas”. You may miss the old “clack clack clack” of the projector, but the experience will be every bit as magical.

*Sergei Eisenstein: Pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist famous for his silent film Battleship Potemkin (1925). The sole copy of his unfinished Bezhin Meadow was destroyed in a WWII bombing raid (“Shoulda had it transferred...”).

Thank you to video biographer and Association of Personal Historians board member Jane Shafron for this article. In recognition of the importance of preserving our home movies, Jane has recently added video transfer services in Orange County CA to her suite of family history services. Jane was recently named one of the Top 10 Personal History Bloggers of 2011 by Dan Curtis.

11 Attributes of the Perfect Gift for the 2011 Holiday Season

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
- Winston Churchill

Scratching your head to come up with a great present for your loved ones? Every year we give presents, yet somehow picking out gifts only seems to get harder as time goes on.

To make your life a little easier, we’ve done the research for you. Our team of expert gift-givers has come up with the 11 attributes that make for the perfect holiday gift.

For the 2011 season, your gift should…

1. Be fun to receive. Gifts should bring a smile to the face of the recipient. They should create an immediate impact. Think of the sight of a kid riding his brand new bike for the first time. The perfect gift brings that level of excitement to adults and children alike.

2. Be fun to give. The best gifts are the ones that you’re proud to give. When was the last time you were excited to give dad a new tie? In the words of Leonard Nemoy, “The more we share, the more we have.”

3. Provide long-term enjoyment. A gift’s instant gratification doesn’t mean the joy should be short-lived. On the contrary, a gift should create a lasting impact. The ideal gift is so meaningful that 5 years later, the recipient remembers not only what the gift is, but who gave it and the emotions they felt when it arrived. Think of the moment you received your first pet, and how it changed your life forever.

4. Bring people together. The holiday spirit is all about bringing family and friends together. Studies have shown that strength of relationships and amount of time spent with family are the keys to happiness. The best gifts create quality time with loved ones.

5. Be meaningful to the giver and recipient. Gifts that have a deeper meaning are the ones that create the biggest impact. Experiences are often more meaningful, and provide longer-lasting happiness, than material gifts.

6. Provide a great value. As gift givers, we want to know that we’re getting a good value for the item we’re buying, especially in today’s economic environment. Ask yourself, “How much is this gift actually worth?” The answer should make the price tag seem irrelevant, or, in the case of the MasterCard commercials, “Priceless”. Another question to consider: will the value of the gift appreciate or depreciate over time? The best investments are those that increase in value as the years go by.

7. Be high quality. It’s often tempting to save money by buying a cheaper item. But less expensive doesn’t mean better value. High quality gifts will last longer, perform better, and look nicer. Luxury daily deal websites offer high-quality gifts at a lower price—the perfect combination!

8. Involve some creative effort. Finding a great gift should be a labor of love.  A perfect gift is meaningful in its creation, not just in delivery.

9. Be original. We’ve all asked the question, “What do I give the person who has it all?” The perfect gift allows the giver and recipient to realize that there’s plenty more to experience and appreciate in this world.

10. Be personalized. The ideal gift could only come from you, and could only be given to that special someone. It’s an extension of your relationship and strengthens the bond between giver and recipient.

11. Speak to the character of this holiday. What’s unique about the 2011 holiday season? Every family will answer that question differently. Think about how you want this year to be remembered, and give a gift that is special for this particular holiday.

Hopefully this has sparked some ideas of the gifts that meet these attributes.

Looking for inspiration? One gift that meets all 11 attributes is a professionally produced documentary of your loved one. This holiday season, celebrate the lives of your parents or grandparents with a broadcast-quality film from Reel Tributes. Capture the stories, the laughs, and the memories that have defined your family. It’s an investment that will only appreciate over time. And one that will be appreciated by the entire family today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.

Reel Tributes: the official sponsor of family spirit this holiday season. Contact us to start your customized film today.

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