Resources and Ideas for Preserving Family Treasures

Consider taking small steps throughout the year, or to celebrate Preservation Week, and contribute to the preservation of physical and digital family treasures.

Preserving Family Treasures—Discussion and Advice from Local Experts

  • Two-hour program, best if samples available.
  • Invite participants to bring one interesting item in to share; can be almost any type from general to a specific type of object (document, textile, glass, book, etc.), depending on type of host institution and expertise of locals. If you don’t include a qualified appraiser, make clear in your advertising that no appraisals will be given.
  • Invite local collectors to talk about caring for their own collections in conjunction with a preservation specialist—encourages others to collect and preserve.
  • Invite local institutions to talk about how they care for their collections—strengthen community relations.
  • Some state field service offices offer free speakers—check with your state historical society or state library or museum. (If you don’t know any local experts, check the Preservation Week Speakers Bureau.)

Digitizing Family Photographs and Papers

  • Combine a talk and a workshop. Make the talk free and open to public, workshop (fee if needed) for a smaller audience.
  • A historical society or the local history room of a library can sponsor and request copies of materials from people about local history —everyone benefits (see Memories Road Show below).

Digital archiving and metadata for the home photographer

  • Offer a program about how to create naming conventions, folder structures, and add metadata to family photographs.

Displaying Family Treasures

  • Offer a program about framing, matting, light, creation of copies, etc. to safely share family treasures without destroying them. A qualified local framer with preservation experience might be available.

Sharing Family Food Heritage

  • Offer a program to copy and share grandmother’s cookbook, family recipe cards, or other recipes, provide tips on how to preserve them for the future.
  • Offer a program to share ideas for handing down traditions as well as sharing food (bring a dish to pass) with the local community. Be sure to check local regulations on food service.
  • Offer a program to share local ethnic traditions with those not in the ethnic community. Partnering with an ethnic social or other organization is a great strategy.

Document Doctor

  • Similar to an antiques road show with identification of materials and preservation advice. No appraisals, strictly for family photos, papers, ephemera.
  • Do in conjunction with a road show program if allowed (this may be an existing fundraising activity for another institution—another partnering opportunity) or a general preservation talk.

Scrapbooking for Posterity

  • Offer a program to explore what materials are safe and “archival”; what should be saved and how it should it be labeled or documented; provide sound, preservation methods including what should NOT be put in a scrapbook, but stored another way.

Organizing Family Collections

  • Invite staff or a local archivist to talk about archival arrangement and safe storage materials.
  • Combine this with a digitization program for local history photographs or documents in private hands to add identified digital photos to your collection. Ask participants if they can identify your mystery photos.

Home Movie Day

  • Invite community members to share—make sure to have a knowledgeable operator to play film on a well-functioning projector!
  • Give an introductory address on preservation of film, reformatting, and preservation of digital video. See

Family Textiles Care: Quilts, Wedding Dresses, and Other Family Linens

  • Sponsor a program in conjunction with quilt or bridal shows or in spring when quilts and dresses are most likely to be packed away

Disaster Recovery Advice for Family Papers

Community Project

  • Building storage or housing collections? Organize a local volunteer effort with the help of a conservator or experienced collections manager and good supervision. Remember to heck liability and insurance requirements.
  • Develop a school or community history project to collect and preserve materials relating to changes over time. Present results of the project to the community in a program.

Who Do You Think You Are?

  • Tie in with the television series or a local genealogy group to bring genealogy to the average person—tie in preserving family documents with this program.

A Day in the Life

  • Develop a program on a day in the life of your institution focused on preservation and providing preservation information. Gear toward high school students, college students, or the general public. Highlight roles of positions, for instance registrar, curator, archivist, conservator, reference librarian, and library director.