My Mother died a couple of years ago at 96 and was still living in her own home. She and my father emigrated in the 1950s.

She had a fine mind and a prodigious memory – still completing the Guardian crossword each week. Masses of papers and their memories came to New Zealand over the years.

Mother did a fine job of sorting things so when we came to preparing her house for sale, her desk, under her bed, in the cupboards were masses of named envelopes (all recycled). It wasn’t only the financial and business “stuff”, but also family history files, photographs, important correspondence, cards, copies of her poetry, plays etc.

In today’s world, it was a well-ordered filing cabinet all about the house.

All I needed to decide was what we needed to keep, process and store!

In the next couple of newsletters, I will share with you how I went about what can be a very daunting task.

You might be asking, ‘Why bother?’

Here are the 4 main reasons that kept me focused.

  • To help the downsizing process
  • To collect together resources that may have future use
  • To identify and collect one’s own memories and treasures
  • Taking responsibility (if not me, who?)

If you are starting out to sort out or archive the items that tell your life story, identifying photos is a good catalyst.

Here are a few tips:

Loose Photos

Make a few rules (criteria) for yourself.

  • Do you know all the people in the photo?
  • Do you really need duplicates (or very similar photos)
  • Is the photo in good condition
  • Is the photo an important occasion in your family’s life?

You will need clear file plastic sleeves, write-on labels and a way to store them e.g. ring-binder folders.

Label the plastic sleeve with the name of the photo/s and the date.

The sleeves can be bought in boxes and although they are not purely archival, they are good enough for this purpose.

If the photos are too big you can use oven bags.  Loose photos on the same subject can all be put in one sleeve. (Put a bit of cellotape over the top to discourage them from falling out.)

NB: Two cautions.

  1. Don’t be tempted by zip-lock bags – the plastic won’t allow the bag to breathe;
  2. Similarly, avoid lamination. Laminate a copy if you want to – but not the original as the lamination process will eat away the photograph.

Photograph Albums

Name, date, subject are SO important.

I have started naming hard copy photos with my 4-year-old granddaughter. She loves seeing pictures of her mother as a baby and during her childhood – and of course, neither may remember who the people are in years to come. This is a time for stories, memories and so much fun one-to-one with a grandchild. Maybe they may even be able to do the writing.

NB: Those albums of the ‘80s which have a type of sticky cellophane over the photos need to come out. As with lamination, that cellophane eats away at the photos. Treat them as you would your loose photos.

There is so much more to share and next month I will bring you tips about sorting and archiving slides, digital photos, diaries and papers.

Have fun!

Rosalba Finnerty, ArchivistRosalba Finnerty, Family Archivist.

Do you have some questions for Rosalba or tips you would like to share? Please leave us a comment below.