Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Saving it for the future

Surely one of the most compelling reasons to wade into the thickets of family history is to preserve at least some of it for coming generations. Why else do people publish their work? Or donate copies to libraries? And an important part of gathering up historical materials is locating old home movies and snapshots. To see the house your mother grew up in, or the first car Uncle Charlie drove, or to view the unsure first steps of your baby sister – each contributes something unique to your own family's story.

If you subscribe to the San Francisco Chronicle you may have seen Sunday's feature (August 20) in the Business section, "The business of memory." If not, go online to sfgate.com and take a look. There are two main articles, one about converting home movies to digital storage (mainly DVDs) and the other about a growing trend toward hiring professionals to document people's life stories. Both articles have a wealth of specific information, advice and suggestions.

Much detail is given about several companies which do transfers from video tapes, movie film, and still photos. Some firms provide editing services, and one even posts the converted raw footage online, allowing the customer to do some fine tuning before the DVD is produced. There is also at least one service which offers online storage and archiving of videos.

In the other article we are told that professional "personal historians" don't come cheap, but their techniques and the very fact that they are not part of the family may give them an edge when it comes to interviewing.

A sidebar lists the companies featured, with their addresses.

If you prefer to interview family members yourself, however, there are do-it-yourself books, including these:

Fletcher, William P. – Recording your family history : a guide to preserving oral history with videotape, audiotape, suggested topics, and questions, interview techniques / Ten Speed Press, 1989)

Rosenbluth, Vera – Keeping family stories alive : a creative guide to recording your family life & lore (Hartley & Marks, c1990)

Greene, Bob -- To our children's children : preserving family histories for generations to come / Bob Greene and D.G. Fulford. (New York : Doubleday, c1993.)

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