Friday, January 25, 2013

For the Packrat and the Genealogist: A Review of “How to Archive Family Keepsakes”


Most genealogists likely have a collection of “must have” or “go to” reference books either on their physical bookshelves, or in their virtual ones.  I’ve recently added a new title to mine:  How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise May Levenick (a.k.a. "The Family Curator") [FYI: I have the e-Book]

Image courtesy of Denise May Levenick

This book is exactly what I need. In 2006, I sold my parents' house in Pittsburgh.  Both Mom and Dad had passed away, and being an only child, the responsibility fell solely on my shoulders.  Before I could finalize the sale, I had the unenviable task of cleaning out a 40-year accumulation of "stuff."  The house was not very big, but had enough space for just the three of us.  There were two rooms downstairs (living room and kitchen), two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, plus a basement (And, we didn’t have a garage).  But, somehow we managed to store an amazing amount of “stuff” in that living space. Collectively we had clothes, furniture, family documents, and photographs.  Also, I discovered plenty of my own possessions still stored in the basement and attic including dolls and toys, books, stuffed animals and a huge record collection. Mom left behind jewelry, dishes, figurines, appliances, and vases of every size, shape and color (among other items), and Dad left his baseball caps, a scrapbook of photographs and newspaper clippings from his days as a basketball player, and a huge collection of carpenter’s tools, including every type of nail, screw, and drill bit you can imagine.  I did not have much time to get everything cleaned out before the closing date, so basically I threw out what was broken, or otherwise believed to be trash, and then packed everything else up in labeled boxes and moved it six hours away to my own home. 

I'm embarrassed to say all that “stuff” has sat mostly untouched for six years in a spare room and our garage.  I have not done much in the way of organizing, save for a few “clean and purge” sessions I have been able to squeeze in between work, family time, and other obligations.  Each January, I set a goal to “downsize” and archive, and I start off with good intentions. I will organize a few things, toss some others, but somehow I just never seem to get around to the “archiving” part. 

When I first learned that Denise wrote this book, I was thrilled for her because she is a colleague and friend, but I also knew it was a book I had to read.  I need help with archiving (lots and lots of help actually). Thankfully, in her book, Denise provides just the tools I’ve been waiting for!  Also, I’d like to note here that a portion of the proceeds of this book's sales go towards helping to fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant, founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.  I first met Denise at the 2009 Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. I sat with Denise and her wonderful mom, Suzanne, at the banquet, and I commend Denise on her generous example of “giving back” to the genealogy community.

But…back to the book.  From archival papers to artifacts, software solutions to source citations, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, is packed with so many useful tips for genealogists and family historians or curators of all levels, experiences, and interests.  It's a one-stop organizational solution.  Over the years I have read other books and articles on organizing and archival practices, but Denise’s book stands out for me. 

The book begins with how to set goals and objectives.  I like goal-oriented projects. The scope of organizing and preserving family keepsakes is a massive one and always seems so overwhelming to me.  But, Denise does an excellent job of breaking the associated tasks into a series of smaller, more manageable steps.  There are a series of  “Checkpoints” (lists, inventories, forms), with estimated times for how long each task will take, as well as recommendations on the best storage containers and archival supplies. I also like the practical suggestions and the “easy-working solutions that are gentle on you wallet,” and the “call out” boxes that have definitions, tips, or other key points.

I could go on and on, but I’ll simply say:  "Buy this book. You won’t be disappointed!"

The only complaint I have (it’s actually not a complaint, but an observation) is that I wish How to Archive Family Keepsakes had been available seven years ago!   But, “better late than never,” right? Now that I have this book, I finally believe I have the impetus I need to get going and get organized! 

Whether you’re a packrat, a genealogist, or a curator (or all three), I think you’ll feel the same way too.


Disclosure:  I was not paid to review How to Archive Family Keepsakes  However, I did I receive a free PDF copy of this book from Denise Levenick to review. The links included are to Denise's website.  My review reflects my honest opinion of this book.


Copyright 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

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