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Because Who Wants 300 Miniature Pianos!

Not you? Then read on. This one is for you!

There's a fear factor motivating some adult children to prematurely help - some more aggressively and/or cheerfully than others - their parents downsize, whether to downsize and literally move into a smaller home or downsize at home to more minimal possessions. The end goal for these adult children is sort of "Not it!" Do not send all that stuff to me. I don't have room for all my own stuff, never mind your stuff, too. 

The question for the parent in this scenario becomes one of legacy - will you leave a burden of stuff, or one of memories, rich with who you were in your lifetime, and who you were together, too? Shared now and shared later, maybe through these stories and memories you’ll help release people from holding onto so much stuff that the stuff becomes that burden the adult children fear, clouding the memories. 

A blue bowl and red handle thin metal spatula

 
 
 
 
 
Simple everyday objects, with meaning. But will you keep them always, or maybe just the memories?  

On that note, meet Sue, a member of the Arti Community. And not just any member. As she approaches her first anniversary with Artifcts, she is also our top Artifcter, surpassing even the founders of Artifcts who had a head start and a natural predilection for Artifcting. 

Who is Sue? If you search @Sue on Artifcts, you won't see a single Artifct. We did promise everyone that your Artifcts need not be made public. Everything is private by default, and Sue loves this freedom. 

Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin sat down with Sue to learn who she is, what she Artifcts, and most important of all why she Artifcts. It was such a treat to chat with an Arti Community member directly and a fascinating conversation. Enjoy! 

_________________

Ellen Goodwin: Hello Sue! We want to know all about you. Who are you, and what brought you to Artifcts? 

@Sue: I am a piano teacher. One of my personal collections is miniature pianos. I am also my family’s keeper and a genealogist. I have collections from both sets of grandparents, my parents, and of course my collections as well as my husband’s. This house is like a museum! Name anything, practically, and I probably have something of that. 

I keep wanting my daughter to come down to North Carolina and go over things with me. Find out what she wants, and what she’s not interested in so I can do something with it. But there’s never enough time. And my son-in-law really doesn’t want all this stuff. So he gave me Artifcts as a Christmas present last year. 

Sue shared this reality with grace and humor. Watch now!

Goodwin: What did you Artifct first? 

@Sue: Christmas ornaments! Well, all things Christmas, really. I have heirloom ornaments, multiple Santa Claus figurines, and other items, so before I packed them up last year, I Artifcted them.  

Goodwin: And then you continued Articting, focusing on collections or at random? 

@Sue: As I have bits of time here and there, I have just started. No particular order. Just what my eyes light on in a moment in time. Sometimes Artifct collections. I laid out all my jewelry one day and enjoyed working my way through it, sometimes Articting pieces individually, sometimes Artifcting collections, like brooches. 

Costume jewelry - rhinestone brooch

I have Artifcted my grandfather’s weapons collection as well, including antique knives, some of which date back to the late 1800s. My grandson caught sight of the knife collection, and was interested, so he’ll inherit them. His great grandfather’s collection!  

Goodwin: And we hope you’ll share the “why” behind this knife collection with your grandson, as well as the “why” of all of your own collections, like your pianos! 

@Sue: Piano has been a passion of mine for a long time. I found out recently through my genealogical research that my middle name Beth is for Beth of Little Women, the pianist of the family. I don’t remember who gave me my first miniature, but my mother kept adding to it, and then I did eventually, too. Each is very different. Now my senior graduating piano students get to choose one from the collection, a remembrance from me to take with them. I have only Artifcted the very unusual pianos, like one from ivory, another from Dresden. I am Artifcting the ones that are special so my daughter knows which are which.  

Read our story about gifting your loved ones a why > 

Goodwin: You told me that you Artifcted a collection of family bibles, nearly a dozen. I’m curious. What’s next for them?  

@Sue: I inherited 40 boxes of heirlooms, pictures and genealogy papers, which I am still going through. These bibles were among the boxes and now sit in the open air on top of a family cabinet in my genealogy research room.  I love the Cheatham Apocrypha Bible in particular, so that is the one I’ll definitely keep. It’s also the only one that still has the family pages in it. As for the rest, I don’t know what to do with them. I might see if the state genealogy archives wants them.

Goodwin: You have 100s of Artifcts. Are there some really marvelous stories among them that stand out? 

@Sue: Yes! Well, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, I guess. I was really surprised to find a lock of Gertrude’s hair. Oh, and great grandfather’s bowler hat. That’s an heirloom with a great story. 

A lock of hair tied with a blue ribbon

@Sue: "I found this in one of the boxes that I inherited (all genealogy based).
 
 
With it was a card signed by Gertrude which probably dates to the same year, 1904.
 
 
Gertrude Cheatham married August Johnston 24 Apr 1905." 

Bowler hat in hat box, padded with fox scarf

@Sue: This hat belonged to John Mortimer Cheatham who lived in Missouri his whole life (1843-1915).
 
 
The hat box is signed by Eugene Scherman of New York, so I imagine this is who made the hat.
 
 
Today, Grandmother Gertrude's fox lives with the hat. 
Even co-founder Ellen Goodwin discovered a lock of hair her mother squirreled away. Read her humorous take on it. > 

Goodwin: How do you Artifct? Do you use the app, a tablet, both?

@Sue: I take the pictures on my phone, because it allows me to skip the step of transferring the photos from my nice camera to my computer. If I want to add more details or long stories, then I edit the Artifcts later on my desktop computer. 

Goodwin: Have you tried new features as Artifcts has announced them? 

@Sue: There is so much I haven’t fully taken advantage of yet, but I did recently ask for my first estimate from Heritage Auctions with your “What’s it worth?” feature. It was a set of four meerschaum smoking pipes. Each used. They had significant market value! 

a set of four meerschaum smoking pipes

My daughter and extended family will inherit the items they wish to keep; she can always sell the remaining items. I think it’s important, however, to keep at least some of these things in the family—especially the older things. Maybe someone will choose the pipes. 

Goodwin: As the co-founder of Artifcts, I'd be remiss not to ask ... What would you tell those who have yet to Artifct? Why should they do it?

@Sue: Watch and listen to her response! (Or read below.)

It’s mainly the stories about the stuff. Nobody else is going to know what it is. I am trying so hard to get them written down and on Artifcts with the pictures, too, because otherwise once I’m gone, the story is gone. I think it’s important for the children to know what was the most important to me, what meant the most to me, and why.  

Now, they may not want to keep it, but if it’s Artifcted, it’s there FOREVER. So, they will always have that memory even though they may not have that item, because who wants 300 miniature pianos?! 

And on that note, what's your equivalent of "300 miniature pianos?"

Happy Artifcting!

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Show Me the Favorite Moment in Your House

From mementos to heirlooms, your home’s interior can be as colorful as you and your Artifcts. Some of us skew maximalist in nature, maybe because life is busy and we accumulate stuff, maybe because we’re our family keepers and don’t want to let go of it. Others of us tend toward minimalism, but maybe still rebuff the idea of a strict minimalist home lifestyle. Personally, I need to be surrounded by color, texture, and 3D ‘stuff’ that is meaningful to me. Don't tell me to digitize all of my stuff and be happy to let it go either. 

Now, don't get me wrong, like many, I dream of hiring an interior designer to simplify and beautify my space. I follow several on social media. But I’ve also always imagined a designer’s work to be incredibly challenging. Or is it only a client like me that's challenging? 

The last thing I want is a house full of thingamabobs from your local mega chain store, upscale design house, or otherwise. It feels impersonal, as though I’m living in a hotel - brilliant (maybe) but benign enough to please most. I want to be surrounded by family, friends, and memories, and that takes custom "Been there, done that," "She gave it to me when I was 10," "I got it when I traveled through Italy," stuff. The stuff of Artifcts. 

So, I met up recently with a couple interior architects and designers to ask, almost like therapy, “Am I difficult?” It turns out that, no, I’m not difficult or alone in this quest for meaningful stuff and life moments to surround me in my home.  

Allison Shields, Founder of AM Shields based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, shared with me how a home interior she designed recently moved her to reflect on how very different her personal design view sometimes is from her clients’ perspectives. And guess what? ‘Stuff’ was at the heart of it. 

"Everything I own has a specific story, a relationship to where it started. An object can throw me into a vortex of remembrance of that trip I went on. Even as a child, everything was curated and meaningful to our family. This client I had recently was the opposite. It was a shocking experience. They were not just minimalists. There wasn’t a book they’d read or photo of a family member incorporated into their new home. Nothing personal, and yet they loved the results.” 

 

Hallway with gallery of dozens of framed artwork on a deep red wall@AMSHIELDS "Hallway to Heaven" featuring her mother's art collection.

This type of depersonalized living is probably on the extreme end of home interior design. Maryana Grinshpun, the Founding Partner and Design Director at Mammoth Projects NYC, remarked that often people in NYC, no matter their wealth, do not have the luxury of stuff and clutter. There’s just no space! 

But even then, some piece or another will typically make an appearance in the design. “Clients usually will tell me even before I show up that they have something important, something that connects them with their story, that needs to be incorporated. For one client it’s grandma’s stool from the old country; for another, a surfboard. And why not? Telling stories through objects is compelling. And my job is to see the world through my client’s eyes, create that curated view, and build a design story around it.” 

Maryana and Allison agreed, too, that the greatest challenge as designer is that you start with a blank page each time. And the first line can be the hardest to put down. It starts to reveal the character of the people who live in a space and the space itself.  

Each Artifct can help define the first line in a more personal way than any Pinterest board you might pull together. As you look around at the moments that fill your space, we want to leave you with a few thoughtful tips and a few of our own personal Artifcted moments in our spaces to help inspire you: 

  • Here's a quick and easy fix: Try re-arranging. Space at a premium? No budget for a new look. Ask a friend or neighbor for ideas on how they would rearrange a key room in your home, like the living room. Then try each arrangment. You might be suprised how it breathes new life into your space. 
  • Sometimes it's not the space. It’s how you’re living in it. Don’t love living in your space anymore? Has stuff been relegated to the back of your closet or other storage space when it would bring you more happiness to be able to display and enjoy it? Might be time for a little help for a designer who can help you balance what comes out and make it pleasant and functional, too.
  • If you bring in a pro, try oversharing. You might have a lot of stuff, even too much stuff, but little or no inclination towards design. That’s okay. Be honest about your obstacles to date in designing your living space and bring the stuff into the discussion. Let the designer know, “This art is meaningful to us. Can you do something with it?” 
  • Objects can help with tight budgets. Few people have five and six figure budgets to commit to home interior design, so then what? Look again at what you already own and consider how your possessions can play into a new look and feel for your home. You might just realize you have this thing or a collection of those things that will help get the job done whether you're doing it on your own or bringing in professional reinforcements! 

   

Click any image for a peek into a "favorite moment" incorporated into one of our co-founder's homes.  

We’d love to be inspired by your Artifcted moments at home, too! Share with us on Instagram (@theartilife) or on Facebook (Artifcts). 

Happy Artifcting! 

### 

ABOUT THE FEATURED DESIGNERS

A.M. Shields. A design and interior architecture firm creating thoughtful, inspiring and unexpected spaces for commercial and residential clients. The A.M. Shields web site and portfolio are under their own redesign at amshields.com and am.shields.interiors (Instagram). Contact Allison at allison@amshields.com for a consult. 

Mammoth. A NYC-based design-build studio and one-stop shop for a seamless renovation, including interior design, construction, and furnishing. Check out Mammoth online at mammothnewyork.com or mammoth_projects (Instagram).

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Former CIA Officer Tackles Genealogical Puzzles and Dead-Ends

Since founding the company, Ellen and I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some extraordinary individuals—artists, creators, storytellers, fashion designers, and even map makers! That said, it’s not often we meet a fellow CIA analyst turned entrepreneur. 

Ellen and I met Lisa Maddox, Founder of Family History Intelligence (FHI) early on in our journey with Artifcts, and saw an immediate fit between Artifcts and FHI. We couldn’t help but think about all that family “stuff” as we listened to Lisa talk about the families she has worked with and the histories she has helped them uncover from decades—and sometimes even centuries—ago. 

Sure enough, families, “stuff,” and histories go hand in hand. Whether it is a collection of old letters from the turn of the century or long forgotten Civil War artifacts. Those objects all represent lives lived, histories told, and the very essence of what it is to be us, to be alive. 

I sat down with Lisa for a casual conversation last month and wanted to share with you more about what makes FHI unique as it helps families preserve their legacy.  

Heather Nickerson: What led you to make the leap from CIA analyst to entrepreneur? 

Lisa Maddox: I worked at the CIA because of its mission and the powerful, impactful contributions of that work. After a successful career there, I wanted to be my own boss, determine my own career path, apply those hard-earned skills, and continue to work on issues of value. Starting my own family history business encompassed all those desires. One additional influential factor was my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The prospect of watching my mother lose her memories impressed upon me the importance of family and our histories.  

Nickerson: How have your analyst skills come into play with family history? 

Maddox: As an intelligence officer, I often analyzed issues with information gaps and misleading data. I applied rigorous analytical techniques to overcome information gaps and understand the context and environment surrounding the subject matter. When I lacked sufficient data, I came up with innovative ways to study the issue and collect additional information. This analysis and collection approach has enabled me to tackle genealogical puzzles and dead-ends. I go beyond what a traditional genealogist would do. My work in terrorism targeting also had direct application to finding and mapping out client’s ancestors. Finally, my attention to good versus bad sources has provided a natural advantage in my genealogy research.  

I go beyond what a traditional genealogist would do.

Nickerson: Respecting your client's privacy of course, could you share with us some favorite stories of things you've discovered in your research? 

Maddox: One of my favorite projects involved discovering information about my client's father’s arrest and brief placement in a Japanese internment camp after the Pearl Harbor attack. The research spanned numerous National Archives’ holdings, prompted me to ask friends throughout the country for help, and thankfully ended up uncovering the FBI case file!

Another memorable project included the discovery of a client’s ancestors in Hungary. We thought that we had hit a brick wall, because Hungarian records are not easily accessible and language barriers presented significant challenges. This was an important moment for my business, because I didn’t accept those limitations and found a way to proceed. Employing my intelligence officer skills, I established Hungary-based contacts and facilitated on-the-ground research, which uncovered data about several more generations for this client. It was amazing!   

Nickerson: What is most challenging about your work? 

Maddox: I have found marketing to be the most challenging aspect of running my own business. After a 15-year career where I sought to draw attention away from my job and work, I have struggled to feel comfortable talking about my work and selling my services. 

Nickerson: What do you wish people knew or better understood about genealogical research? 

Maddox: I wish people understood the limitations in discovering information about more recent ancestors and family members. Clients often ask for details about their parents or even grandparents, not understanding that privacy restrictions hinder availability of information; for example, 1950 census data just became publicly available. 

Nickerson: In your experience, what is the primary motivation for someone to contact you for help with their family history research? 

Maddox: There are two driving reasons most clients contact me. One, the client seeks to discover and then preserve the family legacy for generations to come. They want the family to ask questions and discuss their heritage before it’s too late and the elder generation’s input can no longer be accessed. Two, the client wants to give the ultimate sentimental gift to their loved one (spouse, parent, or grandparent). It’s the gift of knowledge and understanding your history.  

It’s the gift of knowledge and understanding your history

Nickerson: You know all about Artifcts. How do you think Artifcts could help you in your work with your clients? 

Maddox: Artifcts' approach to understanding and preserving the stories associated with sentimental objects and possessions is an interrelated service that could naturally be woven into FHI ancestor narratives. I’ve written stories about ancestors who fought in battles and then discovered that the client’s family still possesses that old weapon, uniform, or keepsake from a battle. Embedding an Artifct would enhance the story and our understanding of our ancestors and their experiences.   

< End of interview >

We know that when it comes to our personal lives and histories “someday” often turns into never or maybe simply too late. We hope you will think about those pieces of you that should be Artifcted and archived to pass to friends and family and future generations before it’s too late. Take it one object at a time. If you get stuck, see if some of our partners and membership organizations can help you!

Interested in uncovering the origins of your family history? You can reach out to Lisa at Family History Intelligence to start the conversation. 

Photos are provided by Family History Intelligence and designed by The Scout Guide in Alexandria, VA.

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Capturing Family Stories, One Video Biography at a Time

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Lori Roux, founder of Whole Story Productions (WSP), for many years. In fact, Lori was one of our earliest sounding boards as we contemplated building a community around all things “stuff” and “stories.”

Aside from being a die-hard skier and former New Englander, Lori was an Emmy-award winning team member of ESPN’s X Games and the creative genius behind WSP. Lori and the WSP team help families bring to light the stories, memories, and histories that make them who they are today through beautifully directed family videographies. 

Ellen and I saw an immediate fit between Artifcts and WSP—we couldn’t help but think about all that family “stuff” as we listened to Lori talk about the families she has worked with and the stories she has helped them tell over the years.

Sure enough, families, “stuff,” and stories go hand in hand. Whether it is a collection of old photos from the turn of the century or Grandma’s china or an assortment of antique silver. Those objects all represent lives lived, adventures had, and the very essence of what it is to be us, to be alive.

I sat down with Lori for a virtual conversation last month and wanted to share with you some of our key takeaways.

Heather Nickerson: Tell us a bit about your typical client. 

Lori Roux: Usually I’m working with a family, but once in a while there may be more of a corporate lean, where the story is more business oriented. Many clients have had successful family businesses and are telling the story of how it started, where, and when. Then we progress through family evolution, historical aspects, philanthropy, and legacy.

I also had a project for a museum exhibition – that creates challenges around length, how long can you keep people’s attention while standing at a kiosk of some sort.

Nickerson: How do clients typically find you?

Roux: Clients usually find me by word of mouth, so somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who I’ve worked with. I’ve also met clients through their other service providers – attorneys, accountants, financial advisors. I am listed as a service provider with large and small financial institutions.

Nickerson: You’ve said that people often tell you that they are not interesting enough to do a video. How do you convince people that they are?

Roux: Almost to a tee people will say, “Oh, there’s not much to tell.” Or, “We’re not really that interesting.” But I try to explain that to their audience, their family and friends, it’s incredibly interesting. It’s a story for the rising generations. A story of who they are, their successes and failures, and what their message is for those that they may never meet.

As one client said to their hesitant father/patriarch, “It’s not about you Dad. It’s about us. It’s FOR us.”

It’s not about you Dad. It’s about us. It’s FOR us

Nickerson: Can you share a story or two that stands out from the families you’ve worked with?

Roux: There are a number of stories, so I’ll pick one of my favorites.

I had a family that I worked with in Australia with eight adult children. The family tells a story debating whether they were “free settlers or convicts” when their ancestors came from the Isle of Skye. There were multiple versions of the story depending on who in the family you asked. I don’t usually do the research, but I was searching for an image of a ship from the 1800s to include to help the visuals of the story. I happened to come upon the original manifest of the ship’s passengers. It listed a number of the family names with a $ fee next to it, which means they paid for passage! Not sure it put to rest the argument, however, as they genuinely like the mystery and family lore!

Nickerson: Getting people to talk about their most intimate family details has to be challenging. How do you get people to trust you? 

Roux: You know, that’s something that I work really hard at. It all starts at that first meeting – trying to talk about the project while also expressing your own humanity and sharing a story of your own that might apply. Even offering a comparison – like, my own family immigrated from Eastern Europe and though they thought they really didn’t know much about their history, it turned out, the more questions they asked each other, the more they discovered they knew collectively!

I also talk about their privacy, and how they will end up including other family members, and how we keep their final product secure. 

It’s all about them… and I try and express that it’s not a “gotcha moment” when we do an interview. It’s all preplanned and preapproved so the final film is what they envisioned.

Nickerson: Explain how you incorporate other keepsakes in a video (e.g., photos, letters, music). 

Roux: Some of the most important parts of a project are the photos, videos, letters, and other family records. You know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, that’s so true! We can tell so much of someone’s story with a few photographs and some music, without even a word being said. We try and include whatever is meaningful and significant to each family – whether it’s a business contract or a love letter.

Nickerson: You know the story of Artifcts. How do you think Artifcts could help you in your work with your clients?

Roux: With all the photos and keepsakes that people share, that we include, Artifcts is a great place for them to find a home. When the project is complete, all the photos can be archived on Artifcts so family members can then go and peruse them at their leisure. When it’s in the film, you might only see something for five seconds. All the people in the photo might be recognizable, but in the film, the images fly by so quickly. Having organized, archived access for everyone who the family wants to share with will be invaluable. It’s like a secure online photo album shared with the entire family, accessible any time, only the family can then add documents, stories, and all the details that you typically don’t get with a photo album.

< End of interview >

We know that when it comes to our personal lives and histories “someday” often turns into never or maybe simply too late. We hope you will think about those pieces of you that should be Artifcted and archived to pass to friends and family and future generations before it’s too late. Take it one object at a time. If you get stuck, see if some of our partners and membership organizations can help you!

Interested in creating a family video biography? You can reach out to Lori at Whole Story Productions  to start the conversation. 

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Archival Preservation in the Mainstream with Monocurate

The joys of Artifcts have been endless for Heather and me, the founders. We’ve experienced with our early subscribers the emotional highs and lows of bringing back heritage and forward memories. Whether that’s unearthing long forgotten family heirlooms, discovering the joy of connecting through shared experiences incapsulated in objects, or simply finding a new, safe place to preserve bits of ourselves, we’ve experienced a lot with our Arti Community.

One of the more remarkable and surprising aspects of the Artifcting journey has been how often people have come to us with ‘stuff’ that really should be in a museum or carefully preserved to ensure it can even last another year much less generation! Browse Artifcts and you’ll see what I mean – letters from WWII, old maps, stacks of photos, bibles hand carried from Europe in the 1800s, cherished cookbooks, original sketches, and more.

So, imagine my surprise when one Sunday morning while reading my local northwest Austin community paper I saw a short blurb about a new company that specializes in archival preservation services. Monocurate is just around the corner from my house, has a web design aesthetic that immediately drew me in, and drum roll please… is another female-led business!

I reached out to founder Brooke Lake to learn more. While her sweet spot is paper – think photos, books, and documents that require stitching, dry cleaning, and other restoration and preservation – her skills also include preserving textiles (think wedding gowns), digitization and digital catalogs, and more. I can also disclose the thoughtful, patient course correction she offered us at Artifcts to ensure we never encourage people to write on photographs or attach QR codes to objects in ways that could ultimately be damaging (now in our FAQs, "Artifcting Process"). Thanks, Brooke!

Brooke and I have since met several times, including a tour of her workshop, and I wanted to share with you some of our musings and discoveries about the overlapping world views of Artifcts and Monocurate.

Ellen Goodwin: Well, we might as well start at the beginning – we both launched our businesses during the late summer of 2021 with no end in sight for the pandemic. What led you to make that leap, at that time?

Brooke Lake: When quarantine happened, I, like many others, found myself faced with looming uncertainty. Widespread closures of public institutions left me with some extra time on my hands, and I used this opportunity to reflect on my experiences in public archives. I couldn’t shake the feeling that however much I enjoyed my work, it was becoming increasingly disconnected from our day-to-day lives. I created Monocurate with the hope of filling the need for archival and preservation services on a personal level.

Goodwin: You told me you have a passion for papers. What’s your background and how did it lead you to papers?

Lake: I have always been interested in the written record. I have a BA in history and and a masters in library science (MLIS). Through both, I have spent countless hours reading through source material. However, with my history degree I was the researcher; with my MLIS I was able to work as a formal Archivist making me the custodian of the records. Later in my career, I was trained by a highly respected Conservator here in Austin. My time spent with Carrabba Conservation gave me another perspective on the physicality of paper. Through all three—a researcher, a custodian, and a caretaker—I was provided with a multi-faceted perspective of the use of the records (i.e., paper). As a result, I was able to respect and appreciate use of paper and the importance and connection papers have to our day to day lives.

Goodwin: Respecting your clients’ privacy, of course, can you share with us the outlines of a favorite project?

Lake: One of our favorite collections in the past year was a client’s late mother’s poetry collection. It consisted of a handful of partially organized folders but the paper was folded, crinkled, and in desperate need of TLC. We flattened, cleaned, and encapsulated fragile pieces so that they could be safely read and handled. We created a simple inventory and reboxed the collection in an archival box with a brass nameplate with the client's name on it. The cherry on top was finding an old email that the client had written to her mother while she was away at school. Our client had no idea her mother had read that email let alone printed it out and saved it. We loved that we were able to rediscover that part of her history and preserve it along with the poetry collection, just as her mother had originally. 

Sample archival box with brass nameplate

Goodwin: What about the most challenging? What makes one object more challenging than another, or is it really just more time consuming?

Lake: Everything we take on can be challenging and time-consuming. We have to work slowly to respect the material regardless of what it is. Each object, in some way, tells us how it needs to be cared for and preserved. For example, with paper, it can rip so we must be meticulous when handling and caring for it. This is especially true of high-acid wood pulp paper. It was first developed in the early 1800s and used in some newsprint, kraft and manila papers, as well stationary, and is fragile as well as prone to darkening and staining with age. 

For digitization, when we scan, say photos from the 1920s, we have to ensure the color is calibrated perfectly to get the most accurate representation of the photograph which can be time consuming and challenging. For objects, there is no one-size-fits-all approach so everything we do is individualized to meet the needs of the material. This can be especially true for objects that people want to handle or display. Since we offer an array of services everything we do is met with some sort of challenge. The silver lining of course is that we are always learning and developing our skill sets so I appreciate the fact that our work keeps us on our toes. 

Goodwin: What do you wish people knew or better understood about archival preservation?

Lake: It’s not as simple as keeping everything “safe” in a bin in your closet. Lots of factors come into play with preservation. The environment (light, humidity, air quality) to the type of enclosure you are storing items can not be understated. Poor handling takes it’s toll as does poor-quality storage, which can accelerate the deterioration of your collection.  

It is important to remember that very object is unique and should be treated as such when it comes to preservation, as mentioned above: it’s rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. A common example is scrapbooks. Sure they store all your favorite photos and nostalgic items but ultimately they are incredibly damaging and horrible from a preservation standpoint.

Goodwin: I could imagine that like Artifcting, with archival preservation services people may not know where to start. They have too much to prioritize. What would your advice be to these people?

Lake: Start organizing your collections at home first. I think this is an area where Artifcts truly shines. Just being aware of what you have and where it is located is a great first step. From there, evaluate your collection and decide what needs to be prioritized. For example, if your important family papers are in a plastic bin on the ground, move them into an acid-free cardboard box to a mid-tier shelf. If you have a large collection of glassware, rearrange them so the boxes are not overcrowded and include lots of padding. For metal objects ensure the environment is dry and ensure each piece is stored individually. Move slowly through your list of Artifcts and focus on one area at a time (e.g., first family documents, then glass, then metal) that way you are in the headspace and can streamline your at-home preservation endeavors.  

Goodwin: Artifcts are literally unique, transferable digital assets. Artifcts will outlive us as individuals, they might even outlast the objects they capture. And yet, with your services, we have hope that objects can be carried forward from generation to generation, family history and world history captured and preserved. Tell us about a project that really resonated with you and the why behind it.

Lake: Currently we are working to digitize and preserve a large collection of hi8 home-movies. This family came to me to digitize and preserve the original media that they recorded over a 20 year time period. These tapes include a complete timeline of their marriage and children’s childhood through birth to graduation. It’s an incredible amount of footage. I found it interesting that each family member had a different take on the “why.” For example, the father simply didn’t want to lose the footage. The mother was more interested in editing clips of the newly digitized media to share with friends and family, and their two now grown children didn’t recall all the moments that were filmed and were more interested in watching the footage to see what was there. 

For me, I was just happy to bring these forgotten memories to light while simultaneously stabilizing and preserving the original media should a better analog-to-digital conversion technology come along in the future.

Goodwin: In your experience, what’s the primary motivation for someone who brings you a precious object for archiving?

Lake: Many collections are becoming increasingly fragile and are in danger of being lost forever. Our clients want to ensure that their collections remain in stable condition to be passed down for generations to come. This is true regardless of whether it is a family collection or work for institutions. While deterioration cannot be stopped, it can be slowed down, and that’s our primary motivator for helping people. In addition, we also provide organization, inventories, digitization, and reference and research services—all of which provide our clients with an accessible, holistic approach to their collections regardless of what they may consist of. 

Goodwin: Okay, last question! I asked Jennifer Singleterry of Sort & Order about this and want to ask you, too. You know all about Artifcts. How do you think Artifcts could help you in your work with your clients? 

Lake: One of the biggest aspects of family collections is the lack of collaboration. Usually, one person is the gatekeeper so to speak. As a result, external stories tend to be lost or forgotten simply because the other individuals don’t have access to the item. Artifcts rectifies this problem by providing the space to crowdsource and share stories. The way Artifcts allows several individuals, no matter their distance, to provide context to objects is just incredible. 

< End of interview >

We know that when it comes to our personal lives and histories “someday” often turns into never or maybe simply too late. We hope you will think about those pieces of you that should be Artifcted and archived to pass to friends and family and future generations before it’s too late. Take it one object at a time. If you get stuck, see if some of our partners and membership organizations can help you!

You can reach out to Brooke at Monocurate for a free consultation. She has beautiful project examples and easy to follow steps on her website as well. And, if you’re in Austin, we encourage you to attend a Monocurate workshop!

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Importance of Digitizing Your Old Photographs, Documents, and other Artifacts

Shortly after the launch of Artifcts, I was introduced to Steven Fuhrman, Business Manager of Didlake Imaging. Steven and I immediately connected over a shared mission, helping individuals, families, and corporations preserve pieces of “their” story. Be it family wedding photos from generations gone by to historic maps, documents, and other physical pieces of paper that help shed a light on who we are, and where we’ve been. 

Steven and I also bonded over our respective privacy first mindsets. It’s not often you find someone who goes the extra mile to help people protect their own privacy. I had an ear-to-ear grin as I listened to Steven describe in detail the steps he and his team take to preserve people’s privacy when handling their most sensitive and cherished objects. 

Two months and several conversations later, I had the pleasure of taking a tour of Didlake’s Manassas, VA digital imaging lab, and sitting down with Steven and Valerie Spencer, Director of Business Development, for an interview/extended conversation. 

Seeing that we at Artifcts get asked from time to time, “what should I do with this box of old photos,” we thought we’d share our conversation with our ARTI Community. But before I do, one more comment: their facility is amazing. First, it is spotless. Paper generates a LOT of dust, and you would never know it by touring the Didlake facility. Second, they take security to heart. From cell phone lock boxes to security cameras. No stone was left unturned when planning the security footprint of the facility.  

What should I do with this box of old photos?

Having said that, on to the interview! 

Heather Nickerson: Didlake has a fascinating, decades long corporate history as a non-profit. What prompted you to get into the digitization business?  

Valerie Spencer: Didlake’s mission is to create opportunities that enrich the lives of people with disabilities. (Editor’s Note: Didlake prides itself on hiring local individuals with disabilities for a variety of jobs, such as photo scanning.) The management team at the time saw an opportunity with the Coast Guard to digitize large format drawings leveraging our past experience digitizing microfilm. Our first major investment was a large format scanner, a requirement for this project. Once we could demonstrate our success with large format, we could easily do other, less complex formats. Given our government contracting background, we pursued other large format and traditional digitization projects, including one with an airport. This then led us into the mass digitization market. 

Heather: Tell us about the clients you typically take on.  

Valerie: There is no typical project or typical client! Really, we work with anyone who has paper, anyone who has photos, maps, documents, student files, etc. We saw a need to support people cleaning out their homes during the pandemic and the holidays, prompting us to invest in specialty photo scanning equipment and to make improvements to our webpage. 

We work with anyone who has paper, anyone who has photos, maps, documents, student files, etc.

Heather: Any surprises or heart-warming stories from over the years?  

Steven Fuhrman: Our goal is to never turn anyone away. Most people send us boxes of photos, but no job is too small. One customer sought us out in the middle of the pandemic. He had lost his dog, and he only had three or four really good photos of the dog. He asked if we would digitize them for him as a way to memorialize his pet. Since it was in the middle of COVID, we did it for him while he waited in his car. It brought tears to his eyes knowing the photos would be preserved for years to come.   

Another story that comes to mind is that one of our clients is an owner of an art gallery. She had recently discovered a box of letters that her father had wrote home to his family during the Vietnam War. She wanted to preserve the letters and his story. Our team handled the letters very carefully, taking them out of their original envelopes, digitizing them, and returning them to their original envelopes and safely storing/returning them. We were honored that she trusted us enough with those family treasures. You don’t just hand something like that over to anyone. We wanted to make someone’s life better and help preserve that piece of family history.  

We were honored that she trusted us enough with those family treasures. You don’t just hand something like that over to anyone. 

Heather: I can imagine you are dealing with people’s most cherished artifacts. What do you tell clients to reassure them that their items will be safe with you?  

Valerie: We have a stellar reputation and have built up a lot of trust over the years. If the U.S. government trusts us with its most important documents, that says something. We also reassure clients that all our employees have background checks and have signed confidentiality agreements. We also franchise three The UPS stores and are experts in shipping and packaging; we know how to protect items in transit.  

Heather: Not every digitization company has a state-of-the-art, secure facility. Can you tell us a bit more about that?  

Valerie: Security is really important to us so we chose a location in a professional business park occupied by other county service providers. We utilize security cameras to track entry from the exterior and access control systems to permit access to sensitive internal areas. Our storage facility is dual climate controlled, and we use a secure cloud server for our digital services. We have invested in the security infrastructure to make sure people feel safe sending us their items.  

Heather: You know the story of Artifcts. How do you think Artifcts could help you in your work with your clients? 

Valerie: Artifcts is a natural complement to what we do at Didlake. We’re both preserving items in a digital manner and making it accessible and easy for people to share their memories. We all like to tell stories, and Artifcts lets the user tell the story.  

We all like to tell stories, and Artifcts lets the user tell the story.  

If you are looking for someone to help digitize your old photos, documents, maps, and more, contact Steven at Steve@DidlakeImaging.com

###

© 2021 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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