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Family History Archiving


What is a family history archive? A family archive documents a family's history via photographs, important documents, scrapbooks, objects, etc. Many people already have boxes and folders of pictures, documents and other materials stored away in drawers and dark closets. However those collections can become a family history archive with some intentional organization, documentation and storage.

Consider creating a family archive to document and preserve your history for future generations. Here you will find guidance on capturing, preserving, and storing your family's history. 

Getting Started

  1. Choose and gather materials
    • Select what is most important to you and your family's history.
    • If there are multiple versions/copies, pick the highest quality versions to preserve.
  2. Assess the condition of your materials and storage
    • Determine the condition of the materials and the space in which you will be storing your materials.
      • Do some materials need to be repaired, are they already showing signs of deterioration, etc?
      • Does the storage space or containers show evidence of humidity/dryness? Are there signs of pests or rodents?
    • Rehome materials in archival quality enclosures, visit the Storage & Care tab for more information.
      • Figure out what types of enclosures you will need to store your materials. 
        • While the overall storage space might not have the ideal conditions, enclosures can help create a buffer through the creation of a microclimate which you can control.
  3. Create an organization system
    • Label items with as much information as possible including: dates, events, people, locations, etc. Even if material has writing on them, make sure you document those inscriptions in the event they become illegilble.
    • Organize your materials in a simple way that also contributes to the meaning of the archive. For example: by type, date, event, etc.
  4. Determine a plan for long term stewardship
    • Discuss plans with family members for who will care for the collection in the event of your passing and include directions for the collection in a will.
    • If you want your collection to be donated to an archives, historical society, library, or museum, contact your local institution or alma mater to discuss their collecting policies and options. 
    • Long term storage and care can be a financial burden, if possible consider leaving a fund or stipend to assist with any costs that might arise in the life of your collection.

(Adapted from "Collecting and Managing Your Personal and Family Records Libguide" University of Colorado Boulder Libraries)

Readings on Family Archives

Want to learn more about family archives? The following are articles that explore the impact that family archives can have on individuals, families and entire communities. To read the abstracts (summaries) of each article, hover over the title.