Discovering The True, Personal Meaning of the title “Family Archivist.”
Wikipedia says an archivist is a “record keeper, surveying an unprocessed collection of materials primarily for conservation or preservation before the archivist begins arrangement and description.” Conservation. Preservation. Record Keeper. Those words all convey a sense of importance, trust and longevity. Here, we begin to uncover my personal definition of an archivist. Here, we begin discovering the true, personal meaning of the title “Family Archivist.”
The general public often associates an “archivist” with an individual who completes their work within the confines of a sterile, windowless vault, buried under piles of papers and books. As an archivist, however, I have a much different interpretation of the title.
I see the world as my living laboratory.
My research is done on a worn-in couch, over a cup of tea poured into a faded souvenir mug, with a table of Polaroids spread out before me. An inviting home is my office. I am a curator of family history, focusing on one family at a time. As I delve deeply into their unique set of stories and experiences, I feel myself come alive. I feel entrusted with their stories.
My personal definition of an archivist is a mix of a good listener, diligent documentarian, and an organized curator.
Above all, archivists must have a passion for storytelling. It’s my ultimate goal to create a one-of-a-kind anthology that accurately commemorates a family’s lineage for future generations.
So who commissions the services of an archivist?
You, the girl who grew up poring over her grandparents’ wedding album; the girl who was fascinated by the face smiling back at her that seems so familiar, yet so unlike the wrinkled, grey-haired woman who sits by her side.
You, the boy who discovered a dusty box of Polaroids in his parents’ attic, telling tales of countless family road trips and birthday celebrations.
Anyone who values family stories and artifacts can commission an archivist to help them preserve their history.
I believe the Save Family Photos community is made up of people like you, people who value preserving the analog remnants of personal history while continuing to build new family archives. Sadly, we often recognize the value of our memories too late. Many times death or tragic natural events push us to see the value in a family album.
That’s why my longterm goal is to build “libraries of legacy” for families.
As the name implies, my dream is to see bookshelves lined with beautiful, hand-crafted anthologies, a treasure trove of memories displayed in the heart of the home. Every family deserves to have their ancestry remembered. My passion was ignited when our family matriarch, my great-grandmother, died at 101 years-old. Last year, a second spark reignited my passion for family archiving – my grandfather died. He was our family archivist. We pulled boxes of photographs, folders of notes, and hundreds of books out of the basement. He had very little money when he met my grandmother, but before their wedding, he invested in a piece of new technology: a Super 8 video camera.
Thanks to my grandfather’s foresight, I was able to watch films of my grandmother emerging from the church on their wedding day, the wind blowing her veil behind her as she laughed. I was able to watch my grandparents waving to the camera on their honeymoon, the first vacation my grandfather had ever taken. I couldn’t help but laugh as my 27-year-old grandfather pulled his bride in for an unexpected kiss that she could not escape, no matter how hard she tried.
I watched them put up their first Christmas tree in the home where my grandmother grew up. It was in that moment that I realized my great-grandchildren won’t remember me as I was when I was 27, they will only know their present reality of me as their great-grandmother. I realized that the work I do, as a photographer and an archivist, shapes family memories and influences family history.
Which tangible pieces of us will survive and be remembered?
As you continue to be a committed member of the Save Family Photos community, I hope you will take action and diligently document your own life, while also reaching out to archivists who can help you preserve your history. Our stories began before us; our stories will live on after we are gone; our personal archive can start today.
She is also a food truck enthusiast, podcast junkie and total cornball who enjoys the occasional weekday spin class followed by dancing around the kitchen to ambient pop music. You can follow along with her adventures in archiving on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.