Saturday, November 1, 2014

Transport Yourself Into Your Family's Future

Photo albums were the stuff of family memories with yellowed and often torn photos of people without names. Standing stiffly on prop sets intended to provide a bucolic view for the folks back home in Europe, we marveled at their clothes, the mustaches and their erectness. Of course, in many instances they had to stand erect because the huge cameras demanded a rigid pose while the glass plate was exposed to capture the image.

Photography advanced, we bought new cameras and family fun was now the stuff of our albums which still had the photos carefully imprisoned in little white tabs at each corner. Still, unless someone remembered to place a name and a date in white ink on the black matte surface, our only recourse was to find a family friend or relative who knew who these people were. After awhile, this becomes much more difficult as people move away, forget or die. Then we are left with books of photos of unknowns who may or may not be related to us.

More advances and a bit more income meant families bought rudimentary movie cameras and then moved on to more sophisticated equipment as the science progressed. We are now in an era where choosing the right format might mean the difference between reviewing those old photos and videos or not having access at all.

I have heard that the Library of Congress has taken on the enormous task of keeping one of every type of input device in its inventory so that they will always be able to read what they are storing. So, goodbye stereopticons, Zip Disk, A drive, microfilm, microfiche, big and little floppies, CD/DVD and hello USBs, and external HDs. What's the next media coming down the road? Whatever it is, we have to be ready or convert, convert, convert to insure we will be able to recover.

Now comes the interesting part where all this techno tedium gets to give us the golden memories. What good is technology if you aren't being creative in your memory-making activities? Okay, the latest idea (and I think it's a honey of an idea) is the "ethical will." Nah, I don't like that "will" idea so much and I don't even think you need to use the word "ethical." What are you, some kind of memory ripoff artist trying to skew those golden moments in the service of what?

Work on collecting family memories from the people involved in them right now or in the not-too-distant past. Sit them down or take your cell, videocam or DSLR, write out a short series of questions regarding family history and you're on your way. And you shouldn't concentrate exclusively on the older members of the clan. Get the younger members into the whole scheme and doing a year-by-year family docu might be really interesting. Length is up to you, but I wouldn't be too quick to edit things down because it removes that element of reality that you want. You are looking for the real, not the slick. Pull out mementos and let people mull over them.

The current range of software to produce this opus is vast and you needn't saddle yourself with Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro, either. Take a look at something that has a short learning curve, can do quick and easy editing and even add a voice-over or music. It can be done simply and it doesn't take experience.

Begin your family history now and let everyone in on the project. It's fun, it's educational and it's for the future members of your family, so give them something they will truly treasure. It's the gift of you.

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