A Journey Measured Through Family Photos

I started a journey that can be measured as beginning several months ago or several decades ago before I was born, before my mother was born, even before my grandparents were born. I took this journey through two cigar boxes packed full of photos and documents kept together through many years.

The Old Cigar Boxes Were Full of Treasure
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I sorted through this collection of family photos, documents and ephemera with my mother this past spring. The cigar boxes had been catch-all boxes of mementos that my grandparents had maintained for decades. Seems that snapshots were just tossed in to keep them all together. The collection then fell to my mother to maintain for many years until we took the time to sit and identify just what she was holding on to.

We spent a cozy afternoon together revisiting family history while my very young son napped. My mother was a valuable resource and was quick to identify people, pinpointing dates with ease, and she kept us both entertained with family stories during the sometimes tedious sorting process. I dutifully documented this flow of valuable historical data as we worked and laughed and enjoyed the time together.

I was pleased that these precious family photos were now being “dusted off” and brought into the light of day again, but just knew that they deserved to be showcased in a unique and special way. After all, we couldn’t remember the last time anyone had even looked at the photos while in those cigar boxes. Once the photos and memorabilia were scanned and organized, I would design a family heritage photo book that would tell the story these cigar boxes had been holding for so many years.

The book would be a journey through time and through my mother’s family, beginning with a handwritten postcard from 1893 announcing my great-grandfather Joseph Francis Brady’s birth and continuing through my grandfather George Brady’s 80th birthday party.    

The journey of this collection of family photos, kept for years in cigar boxes, has resulted in a truly wonderful family heritage book created with my mother. We look forward to sharing the book with my own son who carries the family name Brady as his middle name. 

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Organizing and Preserving Children’s Artwork

I love art, and I love that schools are encouraging and facilitating lots and lots of creativity in the classroom. What I don’t like is lots and lots of piles of cheap construction paper, glue, and paint cluttering my house. Does every sheet of paper my little one dabs with a marker or slaps a sticker on have to come home with him? Sigh.

Usually I work with printed and digital photo collections for clients but one of the largest and most cumbersome collections to organize is children’s artwork. Parents have a lot of guilt surrounding what to save and how much to save of what our kiddos make during childhood.  Kids’ creative output is staggering, and so much of it is just too cute to toss in the recycling bin. Parents want to preserve all the special masterpieces but ultimately end up with just too much stuff in their house. Compound that by the number of kids in the home and the artwork organization situation can be out of control in no time. 

Anyone with children can set up a simple system to organize and process children’s artwork when it comes home with them from school. First, each child in the home should have one bin, of whatever size makes sense for you, dedicated to their work. When they bring a little masterpiece home, decide right then if it should go in the special bin or the recycling bin (maybe do this after they have gone to bed). If it is a keeper, make sure to write the date and child’s name on the back and place in the appropriate bin.

Done and done. But…wait! All that adorable artwork tucked away in a bin is no fun! No one can see it and enjoy it.

Kids are proud of the art they make at school, and it gives them a feeling of self-worth when they know their parents are proud of it too. Find creative ways to display the very best art in your home so the whole family can enjoy. Simply sticking it on the fridge with strong magnets is the tried and true method for displaying kiddos’ artwork. You could create a rotating gallery wall in the kid’s room, family room, or hallway with inexpensive plastic frames. Change out the art as the seasons change to keep the display fresh. Create an even easier gallery wall in your kitchen with colorful washi tape, and skip the frames all together. I have a wire curtain rod from IKEA mounted to the wall in my kitchen corner where I like to hang new art with tiny clothespins. This is mounted at about eye-level for my toddler so he can see his artwork every day too.  He loves to point out a new painting I’ve just hung up and say, “That’s mine, Mommy!”

How should your children’s art be preserved for the long-term for the years to come? Much of the art kids create, at least in elementary school, will be on very cheap materials. These are usually full of acid and will deteriorate rather quickly. You can mitigate much of this by keeping the paper out of the light, stored in acid-free or archival-quality materials, and away from extreme climate fluctuations found in the attic or basement.

Another excellent way to preserve children’s artwork is to collect those very best and very special pieces at the end of the year or end of the school year and photograph or digitally scan them. Each child could have a custom book made dedicated to the art from the past year.  I like to include some of my son’s art from the past year in my family photo book. A photo book full of your child’s artwork will certainly have a slimmer profile and will take up much less space in your home. It is also a lot easier to share with grandparents. 

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Scrapping the Old Baby Book

The Munchkin just turned two and I am now ready to send his baby book out to be printed. It has been a big project, one that I started in a traditional scrapbook-style baby book I was gifted before he was born. I worked on it dutifully, got photo prints made, all while thinking I was doing the right thing and documenting his first year.

Well, to be honest, it sucked. I have terrible handwriting, first of all. Then here I was gluing photos and mementos to these slick pages against my better judgment. And the ultrasound pictures? The ink or dye from the prints bled onto the opposite page and left a huge, ugly stain. It was a disaster.

I have scrapped the whole thing and vowed to start over. I knew that I hated the stuffy scrapbook format and that a custom and modern photobook would be the perfect solution to memorializing his first year. I could replace my awful handwriting with nice fonts, I could scan the birth announcement and the hospital bracelets, and I wouldn’t be limited by the number of photos I could glue to the pages of the old baby book.  Oh! I had so many ideas about what to include in the book from his horoscope and headlines from the day he was born to all the baby firsts I documented as he grew.

After a few fits and starts, I have finished the entire baby book layout. Truly, the hardest part has been creating a multi-generational family tree. This was an element I wanted to carry over from the original book and showcase a couple of generations back with grandparents and great grandparents. Since I have gotten over that stumbling block, I now trust that my baby’s first year book is as perfect as it will get and finally sent it out to be printed! 

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