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NEW FEATURE! Artifcts QR code stickers can help you keep track of your ‘stuff’ and your memories! Learn more
Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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DECLUTTERING & ORGANIZING
15 Years in Storage: Now What? It’s Time to Organize Stuff

"I said I would go through it someday. I know I don’t need it all. But there it sat for over 15 years while I paid for the storage. I couldn't even remember what was in storage, much less enjoy it.” That’s what one Arti Community member of the boomer generation told us recently. We know she is not alone. 

According to AARP magazine (April/May 2021) review of commercial storage trends, the older you are, the longer you keep items in storage. And, on average, boomers only visit their storage units once per month. How critical is that storage? How much cost and uncertainty does it create? Maybe, we need to talk about how to organize a room with too much stuff - especially a storage spot

“Our family moved a lot over the span of 20 years, and I was in constant survival mode. There was no time to ponder what we kept and what we let go of much less the good stories to pass on,” said another Arti Community member.

He was trying to justify to himself why he and his partner kept moving the same ‘stuff’ from house to house, even if only to put back in storage in the next garage, closet, and attic. (And that eventually became a downsizing adventure of epic proportions. Read about it here.)

We have also heard from people who held onto items and expressed some version of, “Surely it will still be worth something, and I can sell it,” only to find it degraded over time in the hot attic, the style or material was no longer in vogue when recovered from the dusty bins, or some other reason meant that no, it was a lost cause. Think you're immune? 

How to Make the Most of the Money We Do Spend on Storage

Keep in mind, storage is not always at an offsite property where you pay a monthly fee. Want to talk about expensive storage, consider the climate controlled space you live in!

#1  KEEP TRACK OF WHAT YOU STORE

If nothing else, make a list or take pictures of the bulky and or valuable, to you, items. Better yet, Artifct what you store. Otherwise, you know what they say, ... out of sight, out of mind. 

When you create an Artifct for the items that go in, you can also affix a QR code to the box to help you easily recall what’s inside each box or bin when you scan the code in its storage location. Tag Artifcted items with two tags: one that's simply #Storage and a second that's the specific location, such as #attic, #fronthallcloset, or #storageunit. That way with a single click on any #storage tag you can easily review what you're storing, and second click #attic, and "Oh, yes, that's what's up there. Maybe it's time to come out and get used."  

If you're working with a professional moving and storage company, they'll usually create an inventory list for practical and insurance purposes. We encourage you to consider this the "if nothing else" bare minimum. You deserve more than an inventory of stuff.

#2  THINK AHEAD TO CAPTURE USEFUL DETAILS

Photos of the objects, for sure, but also a video snippet that gives a 360-degree view if an item is particularly special or valuable. Grab approximate dimensions and weight, too. This will help whether you need to move it again or decide to sell it. This is why if you ever meet up with an Artifcts team member in person, you'll catch us handing out pocket-sized tape measures. We love helping to organize stuff.

#3  ASK BEFORE YOU STORE, THEN STORE, AND STORE SAFELY

We know it might be hard to let go of that piece of furniture that's been in your family for decades or even generations. Likewise, those bins of old papers and photos that you know tell your family's story. Oh, and the collections that snuck up on you and now when you see it all together brings back so many memories. Yes, all very tempting to store for someone someday to enjoy again.

  • If you Artifct it and share it, with one click you can ask someone if they want the item if you do not. No? Let it go to a new home by using Artifcts as a decluttering app.
  • If you elect to store it, and let's assume that space is climate controlled, please still think about what boxes and bins you are storing them in. So many of the popular bins will let off gasses ("off-gas" in archival terms) and ruin photos, film, and documents. And without proper care, textiles can also be a lost cause. You don't want to realize you lost the history and stored what's now trash. Use archival quality materials. Monocurate, and similar archival services, offers great tips and supplies. 

What's In Your Storage? Ready to ​​organize a room with too much stuff?

Don’t wait. Find out. Record it. Artifct it. And think about whether it still belongs! 

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Home Inventory Apps: You Deserve More Than an Inventory of 'Stuff'

A Home Inventory App That Captures More Than an Inventory of 'Stuff'

We did say, "It's that time of year again." Many of us are making plans to get organized once and for all. We tell ourselves, "2023 is the year. Yes!" But are you setting yourself up by relying on old habits and processes that never worked before? Why would they work now?  

Case in point: home inventory apps. Is that your tool of choice? Don’t get us wrong, we know inventory apps are critical across industries and even in private households. But they are unifunctional. These apps are administrative in orientation with not a whisper of fun or human connection. They support management and listing of large volumes of objects with hyper specific meta data fields so you can keep track of them and their value. In our opinion, that’s a lot of work for a very limited scope of value and use to you!  

Let’s Review the Newcomer: Artifcts 

Taking a page out of the book of publications you find online (like this one) that, for a fee, rank “best” tech apps and gadgets, here’s how we’d review Artifcts’ pros and cons compared to home inventory apps: 

PROS:

  • Modern and intuitive interface with multiple view style options 
  • Capture any object or collection with photo, video, and/or audio
  • Use preset categories alongside custom tags to categorize according to your own preferences 
  • Track important documents, manuals, and more 
  • Includes built-in optional fields covering smart categories such as weight, dimensions, location, and even future intentions for the object 
  • Private by default but permissionable and shareable for individuals, groups, and even social media 
  • No file compression – your files are secure, private, and exactly as you created them 
  • Ad free, and you own your data. Download in a click in multiple formats!

CONS:

  • Intended for personal use; not suited to business inventories. We did mention fun, right? 
  • Limited to five media files and three documents. Focus on what’s meaningful and interlink related Artifcts if you like with the @ feature. 
  • Beta features are released first to desktop. And usually released to mobile one week later; we want to ensure each feature meets your expectations. 
  • No barcode scanner. Got us here. Most 'stuff' people Artifct are too unique for barcodes!

We give Artifcts 4 stars as a home inventory app, but a full 5 stars a tech startup redefining "artifacts" to help transform 'stuff' from a burden to a source of connection, history, legacy, and financial security.

Where Artifcts and Home Inventory Apps Coexist 

There exists an interesting opportunity for Artifcts and home inventory apps to work for you, together. How do we know? Members of the Arti Community have told us! Here are three recent examples. (Names are changed for privacy.) Let us know if you have others! 

Meet Jeff. He’s spent several months cataloging his personal library using LibraryThing. He stepped back, proud of his work and realized, "Oh, but that one and that one and that one are uniquely special. They are gifts from people I admire, they are signed copies, I sought them out in off-the-beaten path shops." Essentially some of Jeff’s books are particularly valuable to him and maybe the world.

  • At Artifcts ... Like Jeff, you can easily attach your inventory to an Artifct as a document, include a link to the inventoried book’s listing in the “location” field of your Artifct, or tag your Artifct #LibraryThing so you know which Artifcts exist in that app as well. 

Meet Sandra. She hired a moving company that offers complementary digital inventory to ensure they know what she is moving and the condition of the items of particular value to her. Great!

  • Sandra (and you!) can Artifct those objects and attach the mover’s inventory or cross reference it if it has as digital presence. And, if you like to keep track of items by room or location, simply tag your Artifcts #livingroom, #teddysbedroom, and #garage for easy future reference. Click the tag and all Artifcts with the same tag in your personal collection will appear. Now, that’s a nifty home inventory app. 

Meet the Shroads Family. This family has traveled far and wide in the world and curated a valuable art collection along the way. They have a file with hardcopy receipts and related documentation as well as a running inventory in Excel that they update faithfully during tax season as part of their general estate management. But the details of the when and where and even the ‘why’ of specific pieces are becoming blurry and not everyone has access to these important supporting documents.

  • Through Artifcts, the documents, the details of each person, and critically the ‘why’ of the moment of the purchase coexist. Now individuals can permission and reference these Artifcts in their planning documents and not worry about how to unite separate bits of information stored in different locations. 

Happy Artifcting of those home inventories and beyond!

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Your "Artifctable" Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! Time to make promises to ourselves to be better, work smarter, live healthier, and so forth and so on. I swore decades ago that I would not make New Year's resolutions. Nope, not me. I would make New Year's goals instead, family (and pets) included. 

What’s the difference? In my mind, goals are things that I work to achieve over the course of the year. Things that I can make incremental progress on and forgive myself if I don’t follow through on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. To me, goals are the friendlier version of resolutions; goals don’t require me to give up anything or go all draconian on one thing or another. (And good thing too since only 9% of Americans follow through on their resolutions by the end of the year!) 

Here at Artifcts, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the most common goals people set for themselves for the New Year and thinking about how Artifcts can help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Okay, there may be some limitations, as I have yet to find a way that Artifcts can help me run a 5K with my daughter, but you can bet that we’ll be Artifcting the medal after the 5K! As for my goals, here’s a peek at a few along with tips for how Artifcts can help you make AND keep New Year's goals. 

My goals for this year are: Spend more time with my family, clean out my junk drawer, organize my digital photos, and run a 5K with my daughter. Sound achievable, no? Let’s break it down: 

Goal: Spend More Time with Family 

Artifcts is a great way to spark intergenerational conversations and stories. Visiting an older relative? Look around their house and pick an interesting object. Ask them the story behind it, what it means to them, and why they keep it. We can’t wait to hear what you discover! Same goes for kid art (what is it and what were they thinking), old photos (who is that and what are they doing), really, anything that sparks your curiosity and makes you ponder “Why?” Ask the question, create the Artifct, and share the memory.  

Goal:  Clean Out [Insert Space in Your House Here]  

We all have those spaces in the house where ‘stuff’ lurks. For me, it is my junk drawer. My husband may have moved a full trash can between houses, but I moved a full junk drawer. I need to stop making excuses. Out with the junk and in with the Artifcts. That Red Sox ticket from 2003? There’s a reason I’ve kept it all these years, time to Artifct it and move on. Same goes for the nearly impossible puzzle I bought years ago. My entire family will thank me for this goal.  

Need more decluttering support? Check out this story on ARTIcles. 

Goal: Organize My Photos 

Did you know that the average American has over 2,000 photos on their phone? That’s a lot of photos! Ellen has previously discussed the overwhelming nature of digital photos in  this story on ARTIcles. So what do you do with all those photos? Artifct the ones that mean the most; the ones that have a story behind them; the ones that you are going to want to remember decades from now. And when we say the “ones,” we really mean the “ones.”

I Artifcted eight photos last year; four were old photos, two of which I had the story behind, and two of which I am still searching for the stories. The other four were photos from events and moments in time that I wanted to remember not only for myself, but for my daughter, too. Artifcting is my way of remembering for her, of ensuring she will have the story (and memory) when she wants it.  

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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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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Let's Talk Photo Negatives and VHS Tapes

When was the last time you pulled out that box of photo negatives, or rifled through your family’s vintage home video collection? If you’re anything like me, the answer could even be never. Yet, I haven't had the heart to toss any of them out.

Over the last 20 years, I have carted around from state to state, house to house, a plastic bin full of film negatives and VHS tapes with family home videos my parents took with the original giant camcorders that you propped on your shoulder. I realized some of them were testing their lifespans. Tapes degrade, first getting dark, then with the color shifting and bleeding. If you were lucky and chose high-end tapes, you might have bought yourself a bit of time but don't count on it. The audio may be the best of what remains on those tapes. Negatives are the same story, especially when stored in their original packaging.

 

drawer full of old VHS tape with a few home videos in the mix(Above) A few home videos lost in the mix of old VHS tapes where no one has a hope of viewing them.
 
 
 
(Below) A plastic bin with what turned out to be more than 1,400 photo negatives.
 
 
 
plastic rubbermaid bin full of photo negatives in original paper

Enough was finally enough. I wanted to reclaim every last bit of space in my limited closets, protect my negatives and tapes from complete loss, and share the results easily with friends and family. Decision made, I dropped off my collection at the offices of preservation and digitization specialist Monocurate. (Yes, I'm lucky, no shipping required!)

Why are you choosing to digitize?

Actually, back up. Before I dropped off the negatives and VHS tapes, I casually looked through the negatives. Glad I did! A quick review helped me come to terms with what I wanted out of this digitization work. Why bother with digitization?

Cost. At between $0.40 and $1 per negative (usually according to volume) for basic digitization, it can cost a small fortune to digitize an entire collection! Just think, I only had a 3.5 x 12.5 bin of negatives, organized inside the original envelopes the processor returned them to me in. What if my parents wanted to digitize their boxes, boxes, and still more boxes of negatives?

Relevance. Then there’s the fact that somewhere in the mix was old boyfriends. I did not want to pay to digitize every part of my history. Some history is better left to faded memory. I tried to quickly hold up the negatives to the light and remove those from the collection.

Quality. To top it all off, many photos frankly weren't even very good, because they were blurry, too dark, etc.

Well, I already told you, I brought the negatives to Monocurate anyway. I simply decided that the investment was worth the couple dozen or so digitized photos buried in the collection that would be worth their weight in sentimental gold. Within two days I had an itemized estimate. It detailed my options for digitized formats along with all the other lovely details about what to expect. I was shocked by how many negatives were in my very small bin once Monocurate itemized them. I confirmed I was ready to digitize the negatives and home videos, signed the digital contract, and let the wait begin.

The Results

Before I even looked through the photos, I jumped directly into the videos. I knew that 30+ years was too long to expect much.

The results were still exciting. Seeing yourself as a kid. Seeing your siblings and parents from your now adult perspective. Seeing family members who are no longer with you and hearing their familiar voices. Or learning, "So, that's when I got that special doll!" Or, "Ha! The truth about what I thought of my first day of kindergarten." I don't even have that on video for my own daughter. And that was actually the key for me. It was really interesting to see which moments my parents each chose to videotape, from the ordinary of hauling wood, painting the house, feeding the sheep, and playing with our outdoor cats and dogs to the special, like when family would visit from Illinois, there was enough snow for cross-country skiing in the yard and sledding in town, and Christmas holidays.

Then, the photos. With the videos I was ready for the feeling that technology has changed. The photos took me by surprise. I wasn't thinking about how much less crisp and life like they would be compared to modern digital-native photos. My hopes for a few worth their weight in sentimental gold, however, was met. Kodak moments from ages 16 to 26, digitized.

Beyond the obvious rewards of having these videos and photos digitized as I'd hoped, I learned a lot in this process about understanding my motivations, as already described above and the ins and outs of selecting the right company to bring my media to for digitization. Here's my parting gift to you all in the form of a few quick tips if you are considering digitization.

QUICK TIPS

Before you Digitize

Avoid disappointment when digitizing negatives and tapes by getting clarity on each of the following four points before you hand over this sentimental gold.

1. Find out the digitized formats and resolutions your files will be provided in. Avoid proprietary formats. Guidelines from Monocurate:

Photo negatives. Look for .JPG or .JPG2 files at 72-300 DPI resolution (depending on the use case). If you want .TIFF format (at 600+ DPI) for any reason, who knows, maybe you're putting up a billboard, make sure you ask!

VHS tapes. The goal here is avoiding a result that is squished, stretched, or fuzzy, coloring that is not calibrated to look like the original, and has audio missing or not synced. (Many companies will not even digitize sound on film and may not warn you in advance!) So, look for high resolution, high bitrate, no/minimal compression, with audio sync. Your new VHS files should be around 352x480 resolution; S-VHS will be around 704x480 resolution (same as hi8). You can't really convert VHS to HD, much less 4k, with current technology, so watch out for claims in that regard.

It's worth repeating: Know that you may be too late and the video image quality will be so deteriorated that the sound quality is the best of what remains. Is it still worthwhile to digitize? Only you can make that judgement call.

2. Do you want the originals returned?

Be sure to confirm they will be returned if you want them and the cost, if any, to you for shipping or local delivery.

3. Where will the work be done and by whom?

Is digitization performed onsite or shipped out (with some additional risk of loss)? Are the personal devices of employees and visitors to the facility kept outside the work area? No one wants their private videos or photos leaked.

4. Do you want basic digitization of your media "as is," or do you need organization and touch up, too?

If the negatives are jumbled mess, do you need them organized and an index created? Do you want to first have dust build-up, grime, etc. removed to capture a clean copy? Archival indices and preservation are not typically the work of big box digitizers. If you think your collection needs some love, look for preservation and archival specialists who offer digitization services, like Monocurate, who is a member of the Artifcts partner network

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Consumer warning: By going through the process to digitize personal negatives and VHS videos, we were disappointed repeatedly by the fine print and general lack of detailed information of some popular, mainstream online digitization services companies. Read the fine print. Check reviews and FAQs. Know what is important to you and make sure the services match your expectations. If you have any doubt, write and ask questions before you send off your materials for digitization.

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Family History Month ... Your Way!

We’ve all heard the expression “greeting card holiday,” sometimes even used against one of your personal favorites, no doubt. So many love-hate relationships out there with national days for everything from your dog to your sibling to tacos and doughnuts.  

Then there are the months generally preserved for themes of broad societal significance, like heart health, breast cancer, black history and even … family history – October! And this is a special year for this honorary month because Senator Hatch, who sponsored Senate Resolution 160 to officially recognize family history month, passed away in April. Among the justifications for the month was “an ever-growing number in our Nation and in other nations [who] are collecting, preserving, and sharing genealogies, personal documents, and memorabilia that detail the life and times of families around the world.” Now that we understand! 

This October we’re sharing a few ideas from the Artifcts Community to help even those of you who may think you have no interest in family history to find some value in a month dedicated to exactly that. Use the month as an excuse or opportunity to get to know and capture your own family history and legacy a bit better.

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Hello, Family Genealogists (In the Making?)

“I’ve spent so much time and money researching all of this history, and I have the files, but I really haven’t taken that next step to share with my extended or even immediate family. Without me they’d have to start over.”  

And, womp, womp, she told us that all her research is locked up behind a subscription-paywall. Hmmm. If you can relate, here are some tips: 

  • Purchase a second research subscription for someone who can pick up the research alongside you to carry it forward to the next generation. Guide them through the myriad of resources online and through special archives and libraries as well as in your own family collection.  
  • Take a class or catch a speaker! You can find a plethora of them by searching online or go local. Check your library, community center, museums, or local genealogical society for special events this month (and beyond). In Austin, Texas, for example, the Austin Genealogical Society has regular speakers and research resources covering the state. Likewise, the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center has resources available to help people get started. 
  • Create a family videography to highlight key moments in your family’s history, roles family members have played in historical events, and the modern-day family branches. For beautiful, professional videographies, we adore Lori and her team at Whole Story Productions.  
  • Self-publish a book(let) to document your research findings in black and white. Distribute during a family reunion, taking preorders (and payments) ahead of time. If you need an assist in your family history, we recommend our partner at Family History Intelligence
  • At Artifcts you can share Artifcts publicly or privately, including with family members who are not Artifcts members. Import your contacts to Artifcts, create family invite-only circles for easy group sharing, and off you go! Plus, free members of Artifcts can contribute up to five Artifcts to the family history. We recommend using a special tag like #MayFamily52 to easily sort your collection. You can also preserve sensitive information in the 'Documentation' section of an Artifct where only you, the owner of the Artifct, can see or access it. Some of genealogists at Artifcts also use the ‘Location’ field when they create an Artifct to list a URL or folder path where additional information is stored. 

Experiences Only, Please!

You’ve been away from home for months or years, you return, and as you walk in the door, dinner is on, and you get that first smell of your favorite dish. Do you have the recipe? Who came up with it? Do you know the key steps? Special or secret ingredients?  

Some family favorites are born very directly out of the original farm-to-table concept, before it was so hip, and those origins become a key part of the family recipe story. You grew potatoes and found a million ways to prepare them. You had fresh citrus, wild asparagus, or vibrant rhubarb all around you, and the specialties of your youth reflect it. Capture that history! 

  • Start a virtual family dinner club. You could create a group online to swap recipes or go a step further and once a month someone is the virtual host. Send the recipe ahead (as an Artifct!) so everyone has the ingredients on hand. Then run your own cooking show and enjoy the spoils together after. You might even play some theme-related music from the 60s or 70s or from the German, Czech, Sri Lankan, Indian, Brazilian, Chinese or other roots of the meal! 
  • Road trip! Whether literally or figuratively, go to the original homestead, watch a family member perform live music at a local hotspot, visit a museum that hosts a family member’s artwork, visit each tombstone at a local plot or somewhere like Arlington National Cemetery, or maybe attend a cultural festival that ties to your origins.  
  • Collaborate on a special photobook. We’ve said this before, we’ll say it 100s of more times – photos cannot talk. You can morph them into sharper images or even make them move nowadays, but no photo can tell you its story. Create a photobook that builds all the family history and the stories that go with those photos. Refuse photo-only contributions. Details matter! You’d be surprised, but even one generation removed, family members will start to lose track of who is who in photos never mind recalling the relevance of the photos. 
  • At Artifcts… photos, recipes, and objects come alive through stories and histories, but also with supplementary video and audio snippets. Each is easily accessible and reusable from Artifcts – no digging through chats, emails, cloud folders etc. And you don’t get just one crack at it. You can edit and share through time, collecting more information, and more versions of the ‘real story,’ as you go.  

Share the History

The reality is not all families have a family keeper, that person who by choice or default holds onto the heirlooms, photos, recipes, and slews of documents that represent sometimes generations of a family’s history. Or maybe you are the last keeper or recent inheritor of all this family history and are thinking, “Now what? I really don’t want this stuff.” 

There’s a second reality that is then important to recognize: family history is not only family history. Sometimes family history is part of local, national, or even global history. It offers clues to key figures, ways of living, and the social, political and religious practices of a place in time in history. So, consider sharing pieces of your family history with the big wide world through donations. 

  • Philanthropic donations. Consider galleries, libraries, research centers, foundations, and museums with specialties that may overlap with your items. Donations are not necessarily only in the realm of inherently valuable objects. Often, you guessed it, the story behind the object is the key. Don’t know the story either? That’s okay. Reach out to an institution, share your items, and give them the opportunity to tell you!  
  • Archival donations. Transform your personal family history into elements of a shared community history by offering your items to professional archives. What types of items might fit this category? As a starter: original works of fiction or non-fiction; scrapbooks, journals, letters, and diaries; original business materials (certificates, advertising, shares, board documents, voting records); media (photographs, slides, film, even websites too). You can learn more at the Society of American Archivists
  • At Artifcts... Before you donate, Artifct to retain the family lore and history that’s relevant to you, and then share with family. Make sure no one else is interested in the item. And attach any documentation related to your donation to the Aritfct. It could add to the story about the full history of that family heirloom and where it ended up as well as support potential tax deductions. And then, rest easy. Your family’s history will be in the capable professional hands of institutions that will preserve and protect them for generations to come. 

Talk Wills, From a Happy Place: Your Legacy

Yes, yes, wills are about death. But what they are really about is easing the burden on those we leave behind. What we love to ignore to our detriment is all – that - stuff. And, no, it will not literally all go into a dumpster or a local donation shop. First someone must go through it all, a family member or two, or maybe a specialist hired to help. And in the end, someone will have to make 1000s of decisions about what becomes of every single item. Do you really want to leave a burden as your legacy? 

Wouldn’t you rather everyone be better prepared and informed? Not only will making a plan and creating documents make it easier for your family to pick up the pieces, but they can also help loved ones understand why you valued the items you are leaving behind. For example, wouldn’t you rather share THAT was the guitar Dad used to serenade Mom on their first date? THAT was the medal you were awarded for your last promotion in the US Navy. THAT was part of a costume you wore in your first school play (before you became an actress!).  

Wouldn’t you rather reminisce together than leave friends and family to wonder and have no way to get answers later? Maybe even know each other a bit better, now, while you can still enjoy? 

(Dramatically) Simplified checklist: 

  • Don’t have a Will? There are many wonderful estate planning attorneys in each community who can help you with this process. But this is an industry transformed by the digital revolution, and then some. If you are looking for a digital, self-guided approach, check out the results of an independent review by Investopedia here.  
  • Haven’t really, um, seen your Will in a while? Give it a checkup. There's no time like the present, truly. Add it to your to-do list this month! 
        • When editing or updating your Will and related documents, see if you can add some non-legal, advisory language to help to explain why you made the decisions or gave the gifts you did.  
  • Confirm: Are the major themes covered?  
        • Estate 
        • Minor children 
        • Relatives with disabilities 
        • Retirement 
        • Powers of Attorney 
        • Living Will 
        • Stewardship of digital assets (profiles, accounts, photos, web pages, etc.) 
  • Is there a list of tangible assets referenced in your Will? Your Will may provide for a separate “Memorandum” that can be updated and changed at any time without making any changes to your Will.  
        • No list? Start. Just take a first cut by looking around the house (or your Artifcts collection!). 
        • Already listed? Are you sure it covers at least those items of greatest financial or heart (sentimental) value? Do you want to leave something to your favorite charity, neighbor, your best friend, your … you get the idea. And, if so, did each person and item get listed? Double check! 
  • At Artifcts… pick three or four of your most treasured items to Artifct and let your loved ones know why each item matters to you. Use the "In the Future" field to think through and record what you would like to happen to this item one day. Will it be passed down? Rehomed? Sold? Consider sharing the Artifct with your estate planner or attorney to list with other tangible assets referenced in your Will.   

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