20 April 2013

"No longer saved for generations, family heirlooms are being shed"

That is the title of an article in today's online Star-Tribune. I know from my own experience that not all family members want to hang on to furniture, dishes, and other items.

The sentences that really hit me are "Even highly personal items, such as scrapbooks, letters and photos, are now being shed. “We’re surprised,” Burley said. Empty the Nest sells those items to vintage dealers who buy in lots, turning mementos into artwork for others." and "Mueller has purchased other personal items, including vintage diplomas and handwritten love letters, which she plans to use, along with vintage maps, to create retro decor."

These items that are then lost represent individual, family, community, church, and military history. The contents might help a family understand issues in the family dynamics. A letter from someone in the military might hold details that explain that person's experience during a war or could even hold battle history that is found nowhere else. A mention of an illness might be a clue to hereditary health issues.

The photos might include one of the christening dress that is still being worn by family infants today. A scrapbook might contain history of someone's high school or college experience complete with programs from events, sports photos, graduation photos, and other items that the school archives is lacking. I wonder if any of the people disposing of such items has contacted a county or state historical society to see if any of these items might be appropriate for their collections? Have they contacted the distant cousins to see if anyone might like to have them? It's easy to do that contacting via email and social media today.

As someone in a family lacking much in the way of old scrapbooks, letters, and photos, this article was especially painful. Do historical societies, archives, special collections departments, and other institutions do enough public outreach about the value of such items? Do they let the public know how to preserve them and what items might be donated? I know a large part of that requires funds our institutions just don't have  today.

My pie-in-the-sky solution would be to have the funds and time to create a place to house such items. Then to catalog them all and have an online finding aid plus an index so that the information is available to family members and historians who might seek them out in the future.

The full article is here http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/203862871.html

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