The Archive Lady: Preserving Our Own Memories

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The Archive Lady offers tips on preserving your memories of 9/11 and other historical events 

The Archive Lady offers tips on preserving your memories of 9/11 and other historical events 

Caroline from New York asks: “I have an extensive archive of newspaper articles, magazines and books about September 11, 2001. I have also journaled about my experience on this day including my thoughts and feelings from that time. What is the best way to preserve my own memories so that I can pass them down to my descendants?”

Mary asks a very poignant question and one that is very important. It is important because we should never forget 9/11 or any other event in our lives that affected us in an extreme way. Whether that is extremely sad or extremely happy, these are our experiences and memories, and they are important. As genealogists and family historians, we document the lives, experiences, and memories of our ancestors but we should not overlook preserving our own experiences and memories. I know that I wish my ancestors would have left me diaries, journals, or something about what they experienced during their lifetimes. I have nothing but I am documenting what I have experienced for my descendants.

First, it is important to get our experiences and memories of a particular moment in time recorded in some way. Some will choose to write these memories down with pen and paper, writing a Word document on the computer and others might choose to record them with video or audio. You can tell your story by also including newspaper clippings, magazine articles or excerpts from books. The important part is to get it record so that it is out of your mind and recorded in some medium that can be preserved and shared. Be sure to preserve what you have recorded by making several digital copies and giving them to family and friends. The more you can disseminate your story, the better it will be preserved.


Priestly Clark Railroad Work Diary, ca. 1934, Houston County, Tennessee Archives


Another idea is to use the scrapbooking method to preserve your memories with visuals. This can be done with traditional scrapbooking materials, or you can accomplish this by using some of the new digital scrapbooking programs. My Memories offers free digital scrapbooking kits that can help you get started. If you choose the traditional scrapbooking method, be sure to only use good copies of original documents and photographs. We should never paste original documents and photographs into scrapbooks, only copies. Archival scrapbooking supplies can be purchased at any scrapbooking store.


Scrapbooks, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Scrapbooks, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

The newspaper articles, magazines, and books that Caroline has collected are a great way to use visuals to accompany your own memories. Be sure to include the source of the newspaper article, magazine, or book when you are using them. This way, if your descendants want to know where you got the information, you will have provided them with the source citation so they could go find it themselves.

The memories that we all have of the same experience will be different depending on the person. What I remember or experienced is not the same as what Caroline experienced. Therefore, it is vitally important that each of us document and preserve our own memories. Not only for our descendants but to document everyone’s experiences. When those that come after us want to know what we experienced during our lifetimes, if we have taken the steps to document and preserve our memories, they will know.

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If you have a question for The Archive Lady, please send them via email and I could use your archival question in an upcoming edition of The Archive Lady column. Melissa Barker, a.k.a. The Archive Lady E-Mail:


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Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. 

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