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December 20, 2013

Preserving Paper Treaures: Step 3 Ready To Create & Store

This is Step 3 of preserving your family ephemera. Yesterday I talked about sorting and organizing all those family papers into piles (See Preserving Paper Treasures: Step 2 Sorting & Organizing)

We're going to talk about paper Pile #1 and Pile #2 today. These consisted of your  most important and valuable papers and documents. To refresh memories, Pile #1 consists of your most valuable ORIGINAL documents that you are not ever going to throw out or see ruined.There is probably a strong emotional attachment to most items in this pile.


Pile #1 is easy to deal with. You want to preserve these items intact for future generations. You are never going to throw them out or alter them in any way. You have digitized the papers but you need to do something with the actual documents. Here are my suggestions:


Keep the treasured documents and papers in a small decorative box, one that is likely to be passed on down through the family after I'm gone. It's small enough that it is probably never going to be used for something else. You might want to add a family chart or note describing the contents of the box. See Passing on Your Family Genealogy Treasures to a Descendant

Remember my huge blanket box full of papers? That would almost certainly result in someone at some time in the future dumping the papers and using the box for storage of blankets or towels or some other household item. But the small antique box I use looks important enough to not be trashed and isn't big enough to store much more than the documents I've placed in it. 

Update January 20, 2014: Please see  Oops I goofed! A Correction re Preserving Paper Treasures for a caveat and correction

ACID FREE BINDER STORAGE You can also place the documents and papers from Pile #1 into acid free sleeves and keep in an archival binder or box. The idea is to keep them in something that will protect them from deteriorating and maximize the chance that they will still be in your family 100 years from now.  Whatever method you use, the papers from Pile #1 are intact and tucked away safely. And you have digital copies you can print to create something nice. (more on that after we talk about Pile #2)

 WHAT DO I DO WITH PAPERS FROM PILE #2?   Pile #2 is where you put papers that have meaning for you but are not as important or unique as Pile #1. You would like to see these documents survive and be passed on in the family but they do not have the same emotional attachment for you.  

Pile #2 is where you can be a bit more flexible. Remember this is the pile that contains items you didn't mind altering, keeping in mind that you have digital copies as a backup.   Before I get to what you should do with Pile #2, let me show you some ways to create some nice items from both piles that you can pass on to other family members.

Shutterfly Book Example Page with scanned document

You've scanned and digitized all the items in both piles. This is where I take my digital copies and create books in Shutterfly. See my YouTube Video Tutorial on Using Shutterfly. You can use any self-publishing service such as Blurb or Lulu or, for those in the USA, MyCanvas.

The benefit of creating a coffee table sized book (30 pages or less) is that it looks professional and therefore important enough to keep and you can have multiple copies printed. This means you can give copies to family members and thus maximize your chances that at least one of those copies will survive in the future.

Shutterfly keeps your original book which means you can have copies printed at any time. Blurb has restrictions on how long they will store your book so be sure to read any restrictions before starting your book.

But what to do if you don't want to create a self-published book? Perhaps you don't want to undertake such a big project. Maybe you've never used Shutterfly or any self-publishing service and the task seems daunting. Perhaps it is just too expensive for your budget. That's okay because I have another solution for you.

Trip Scrapbook I created for grandchildren

Consider creating an old-fashioned scrapbook. If you've been lucky enough to inherit a scrapbook that your mom or grandmother kept, you know the kind I mean. Or perhaps you kept one as a teenager - many of us gals glued in tickets from our first prom or a ribbon from a corsage given to us by a  boyfriend.

You can purchase acid-free scrapbook paper to create a lovely book that can be passed on to someone in the family. As you create your scrapbook remember that you are not going to use the original documents in Pile #1. Instead you will use copies. You've scanned them all so it will be easy to print copies on good quality paper. You can cut those copies up and glue them in your book. Using copies allows you to create more than one scrapbook.

Pile #2 is where you have more flexibility because you can use the originals. The papers in this pile can be cut up or altered and used in your scrapbooks. These documents don't have to be handled as carefully as those in Pile #1. You are still preserving these papers for future descendants in book format. Glue them into a scrapbook. Cut them up and create a collage. The sky's the limit because you have digital copies and you can always print more. If you're going to make more than one scrapbook you have copies of the  papers in Pile #2.

I know that professional archivists will be gasping in horror at the thought of cutting up or using the originals from Pile #2 in a scrapbook but we are preserving them and creating a way to view them and enjoy them.


Your scrapbook can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. You can create fancy borders, add stickers or designs and be very creative or not, as you see fit. Remember your scrapbook does not have to be a work of art. The goal is to achieve a way of keeping these family papers together in a format that can be passed on.

Since your goal is to maximize the chances that this scrapbook will survive and be passed on, you need to put more thought and time into creating the outside cover. The nicer and more professional the cover of your scrapbook looks, the more likely it will be treasured and preserved and given to yet another generation. My husband has a saying "If it looks like junk it will be treated like junk. If it looks important it will be treated with reverence."

Archival Binder Box

If creating a scrapbook or a self-published book seems too daunting or time-consuming you might choose to place your original documents from both piles in an archival binder to pass on to a family member at some point.


Whatever method you choose, there are 3 goals:

1. To preserve the documents
2. To pass them on to other family members
3. To be able to enjoy the documents yourself in an easy-to-use manner

You probably think this is the last post in this series. But guess what? We've talked about how to preserve, share and enjoy your ancestors' treasured paper records. But we haven't talked about you and your life and your documents! If you have descendants they are going to want to know about you, their ancestor. So keep watching this space for a new series on making sure you are keeping and preserving records about your life as well as the lives of your ancestors.

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