Welcome to Preservation Week! This week long event is celebrated by libraries, archives, and other institutions to emphasize what communities can do to preserve personal and shared collections. Frequently, the American Heritage Center (AHC) talks about the collections within in its holdings but we believe personal archives are just as important.
To give examples about what a personal archives is or what it can mean to you or your family, this week AHC staff and members from the community will share stories about their personal archives; what it means to have personal items preserved; as well as an experience of trying to find family history here at the AHC when information isn’t always available at home. I will start the week with my own stories.
Both my grandmothers saved family records and some of the records they kept were passed on to me. I could tell multiple stories about the records they kept but I will only share a few. My grandmothers saved items from World War II: one grandmother experienced the home front while the other was a nurse in North Africa. I have written accounts and photos from my grandmother who was in North Africa and ration points from my other grandmother who stayed stateside. The contrast of place and experience of World War II between family members is fascinating to me. My maternal grandmother also gave me multiple photographs from different generations of the family. A couple of my favorite photographs are of relations sitting on the porch eating watermelon as children. One photograph is my grandfather with his siblings and the second photograph is my mom with her siblings. I also appreciate the photo with my mom and her siblings because I know it was one of my grandmother’s favorites.
My grandmothers weren’t the only ones who saved records. For a year my grandfather attended my alma mater. He and I are the only two people in my family to attend this university. I have his yearbook and I feel a special connection to him when I think about attending the same university, even if it isn’t where he ended up graduating.
The wedding invitation I have from brother’s wedding a few years ago is also a special item in my personal archives. Many people think that in order for an item to be archival it has to be “old.” The records we create today can be passed on for generations. In fact items can never become old if they aren’t saved. My brother’s invitation is the fourth generation of wedding invitations in my possession. Something “new” continues our family legacy.
My family records mean a lot to me. With the few stories I have shared already I hope to convey the importance I feel to keep and maintain personal family records. When I look at these records I learn more about where my family came from and how I came to be who I am.
-Amanda Stow, Reference Archivist