WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

Tech Tuesday: Preserving Family History (Rebroadcast)

Photo albums, home movies, handwritten letters, an unused old computer with important family documents still stored on it: as precious as these items may be, they'll last only as long as the paper, videotape or hard drive they're on. To make matters worse, they're often stored in attics and basements -- the worst possible environments for preservation. We explore high and low tech ways to protect and store family memorabilia, and the smartest way to migrate different materials to digital formats.

Deteriorating Audio, Video And Film

Examples of some of the deteriorated material that preservationists like George Blood LP Audio Visual Preservation in Philadelphia encounter as they work to restore and archive VHS tapes, cassettes and multitrack reels.

Preservation And Archiving Events

Preservation Week is an initiative of the American Library Association's Preservation and Reformatting Section. Libraries across the U.S. hold events and activities that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections. This past Preservation Week focused on the preservation needs of military families, with articles and resources specifically for this community.

Currently under construction, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has been hosting "Save Our African American Treasures" events around the country since 2008. The events are in the same vein as Antiques Road Show. The public is invited to bring in three personal family heirlooms. Conservators are on site to provide advice and make protective enclosures such as boxes, envelopes and tissue to wrap textiles.

October 19, 2013, is Home Movie Day, an opportunity for families to share their own home movies with their community and learn how best to care for them.

Preservation And Archiving Resources

Several nonprofit regional preservation centers provide workshops and conservation treatment. Many also provide 24/7 emergency hotlines for disaster response advice after events like a flooded basement or fire damage. An appropriate initial response can make a difference in successfully saving family heirlooms. The following two centers serve our region: Center for Conservation of Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelpha and Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. Find a center by geographic location at the Regional Alliance for Preservation.

Another option for finding someone to treat or repair your artifacts is the American Institute for Conservation of Art and Historic Artifacts "Find A Conservator" guide. It lists professional conservators who do independent work, listed by specialty and geographic area. A "Caring For Your Treasures" guide is dividuded by formats, including architecture, textiles, books and photos.

For audio-visual resources, Film Forever has simple steps for preserving motion picture film materials with a focus on at-home storage. The National Film Preservation Foundation was created by the Congress to help save America's film heritage. The National Recording Preservation Plan at The Library of Congress is described as a blueprint for saving America’s recorded sound heritage for future generations.

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