Recording Family Memories in This Digital Age, Let Me Count the Ways
In this digital age, the art of documenting your family's history has been made simple...or more complicated, depending on which way you choose to see it!
There is always that parent, who never forgets the camera. They never run out of batteries or room on their digital card, and they always seem to find time to not only print but frame those great photos of their kids.
Then there are the rest of us, who sometimes rely on grainy cell phone images, the kindness of others with working cameras or the last resort, box camera. Even when we do snap a fantastic photo, it never makes it out of our computer, sometimes not even out of the camera itself!
My mission today? To give you a few simple tools that will allow you to become the keeper of your family's story. By virtue of being a mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparent, you have been charged with the responsibility of capturing, caring for and sharing the history of your loved ones.
A "keeper" is defined as one who, or that which, keeps or has possession of anything. An essay by author Patricia Nell Warren shines a light on the history of how parents, particularly mothers, have been responsible for keeping the story of generations alive for centuries.
"For starters, the feminists got it wrong. In the word "history," "his" likely does not refer to men. The American Heritage Dictionary index of root words shows us that there are astounding relationships among like-sounding root words. "History" probably comes from "hyster," the Greek word for "womb. Why womb? In times gone by, according to my native American aunties, women were the keepers of histories. Civilization's "history" starts with family history, and keeping track of the generations..... No generation was ever skipped."
Ha! And you thought you were just snapping photos of the kids playing basketball, having a birthday party or receiving their student of the month award. No, you are the "Family Keeper," the "Storyteller," the "Griot" and these days the archiving world bows to you, giving you more than enough tools to capture, organize and share your family's ever evolving story.
Tools of the trade:
Still Cameras: There has never been a more exciting time to go camera shopping for the average consumer. Cameras that were once only priced for professionals, can now capture babys first step or grandpa's 90th birthday with studio quality. CNET.com has a fantastic review list of what to look for when you purchase a digital camera. From the snap and post on Twitter crowd to the serious amateur, there is something for everyone. Another great source for camera purchasing advice is this review on PC World. They give you sure fire advice that goes beyond the number of megapixels you might need. This same article goes into detail about Video cameras as well.
Computer and Online Storage: Now that you have all of those fantastic photos and video, how do you store them on your computer? What happens when you run out of space? What is an external drive anyway?
You can always simply upload photos to your computer. But with your new camera, trust me, it won't take long before those 450 photos you took of your high schooler going to the prom and the 6 hours of piano recitals fill up your hard drive. In this NY Times Q&A on Personal Tech, the writer gives solutions for those of you who are quickly running out of hard drive space. An explanation of what an external hard drive is and how it works can be found HERE.
For those of you looking for some advanced storage options, Glenn Fleishman at MacWorld has a great article online this week that talks about traditional online solutions as well as new high-tech wi-fi options, (excuse me while I use a child's bib to wipe away my drool). The day has finally come when you no longer need to run home to plug in your camera to your computer...you can actually upload photos immediately after taking them. Now this is a Family Keepers dream.
Sharing and Printing: So you finally have those photos out of the camera, how are you ever going to get Aunt Ethel in Chicago to see them? There are some really affordable, (usually free), sites that allow you to upload high resolution images and then share them online or send them to your local Walmart, CVS or Target for printing in any city you choose.
My personal favorites are Shutterfly and Picassa. With Shutterfly, you have the ease of uploading tons of albums and then printing super high quality prints, postcards, greeting cards, canvas wrapped wall hangings...you name it! The quality of their prints is extremely high and they almost always have a "free print" promotion going for new or returning customers. I see now that they are also offering free family websites, another great way to keep loved ones up to date with your family, or better yet, a great way to share photos from multiple branches of the family all in one place.
Picassa offers free online photo storage through Google. This is an easy way to either share on Facebook and other social networking sites, print photos at home or send to an outside vendor for printing and pick up. I adore their simple yet savvy photo editing software and the ability to invite friends and family members to view my albums is simple and streamlined. CNET offers a pretty good review of online sharing sites. Each has its pros and cons, but all get the job done. Most also offer the ability to print high quality albums using your photos. That's right, no more old fashioned photo albums with sticky pages that turn your memories into yellow, faded images!
Still can't get enough of my Family Keeper madness? Check out the links below to take your storytelling to the next level. There truly is something out there for everyone. One of the joys of parenthood is capturing the smiles and shared moments of those that we love. By understanding the tools available, we can all become incredible Story Keepers and continue the tradition of weaving the tale of our beautiful and diverse families.
Scrapbooking: A few years ago this was deemed America's fastest growing hobby. Check out our local Archiver's store in Marietta for everything you could ever want wen it comes to materials and ideas. They also offer workshops. In the world of family keepsakes, not much compares to a hand made scrapbook!
Family Trees: One of my passions and hobbies is genealogy, so I can highly recommend two sites to help you begin finding and researching your family tree. Family Search (www.familysearch.org) is a free site filled with phenomenal records and information. It's the perfect first stop for anyone looking to build their tree and contains documents that are not found on many other sites. Then of course there is Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com) a membership site that contains the largest collection of online records in the world. They offer a 14 day free trial and even if you sign up, then decide to take a break in your research, your tree never disappears. Fair warning....genealogy is addictive!
Family History: If you are looking to get your hands on original documents, visit the Georgia Archives or the National Archives Southeast Region. There you will find thousands of research aides to help you climb the limbs on your tree.