When you think of the different ways we preserve memories, what methods come to mind? Photographs? Newspaper articles? Possibly home movies?
In the age of digital preservation, there are several moving parts to consider when it comes to preserving family history. Mainly: In what ways are your memories, and the media that hold them, vulnerable to the passage of time?
For many digital and analog formats, time is the biggest enemy. Videos wear down. A vintage film can succumb to vinegar syndrome or simple decay. Many people have treasured recordings of family members recounting their memories and oral history, but can’t afford to preserve them in a way that guards against harm. Chilled storage spaces and airtight equipment are out of the budget for many people looking to preserve family history.
Looking farther into the future, even when historical documentation is handled according archival perservation standards, there is no guarantee that the technology of the future will be able to process and play the recorded media of the past!
Even now, families struggle with home movies in formats that no longer have easy options for playback. If we can’t count on being able to play back the recordings of our relatives and ancestors, how else can we remember them and preserve their unique stories and viewpoints?
The answer is transcription!
If you have a video of an older relative speaking, transcribing that story is one of the safest ways to make sure their words are preserved. Not only does this allow you to store the information in multiple places and formats, but you’ll be able to directly reference the transcript if the original technology wears down or becomes difficult to access.
Transcribing from modern recorded mediums is quite simple. If you have a raw video or audio file, you’ll be able to submit it for transcription.
If your recording method is a bit older (a phonograph, let’s say), don’t fret! Simply re-record the material that you would like to transcribe. As long as you record with a modern close-up microphone, in a room that is as soundproof as possible, you should be able to make a reasonable copy.
Contact a local historical preservation group if you need help finding a way to play the recorded medium. Even if they don’t have the equipment you need, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Recording the words of songs and other signifiers of the time can also help you track down moments in history. You may not recognize the song that Grandma Margaret was singing in that black-and-white video, but transcription can allow direct comparison between it and other preserved songs from that era.
You may find it easier to track down your ancestors’ place in history, or even their actual location, by keeping records of their own words.
Compared to most mediums, paper is surprisingly one of the easiest to seal and use in the future. Even when yellowed or decayed, paper can still be read. You’ll have more of a buffer for keeping the words of your relatives safe by writing them down, and of course digital versions of your transcript can be emailed, copied, backed up to the cloud, etc.
People underestimate how nostalgic they may become for the past. There’s nothing more horrifying than tracking down a treasured old recording and realizing the tape’s been eroded away!
Make transcription a part of your plan to preserve your family history. Try our 1-Week or low-cost Budget service after your next family reunion, and pass along copies of the preserved memories to the whole family. Future generations may thank you for it!