Workshop offers tips on preserving family history

By Adam Prudhomme
Staff Reporter

Lennox and Addington Museum and Archives is set to launch a new series of ‘archive learning labs’ this fall.

The first in the three-part series will take place Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon and is geared towards educating people on how to preserve their family history. Led by Kyla Ubbink, the workshop entitled ‘The Home Archivist’ will demonstrate practical ways to preserve family documents, letters, photographs and memorabilia from deteriorating.

“People are very keen on doing that type of research and a lot of them have a family collection (of photos and hand written letters) at home,” said L&A County Museum archivist Kim Kerr. “That’s the first lab, to sort of get people interested in conserving those family collections that they have in best way that they can doing it at home.”

The cost to attend the first lab is $8 ($3 museum admission and $5 for materials). Registration must be done in advance by calling 613-354-3027.

Those in attendance of the hands on demonstration will learn about safe handling techniques for sensitive artifacts, digitization options and about best practices for storing materials at home. Ubbink, a professional in preservation of historical documents, will also show how to clean old books and paper, remove staples and separate photos from old albums while also providing tips on how to make acid free storage folders.

“Things are going more and more digital and have been for awhile, but there’s certainly still a lot of research that has to happen with those original hard copy items,” said Kerr. “Digitization is very pricey. It’s an expensive endeavour. It’s a slow process and I’m not sure people know that. With things like Ancestry (a website specializing in tracing family histories) people expect everything to be there but it’s simply not. A lot of the research still has to be done with those original hard copy items.”

Improperly stored documents can render letters and old photos beyond recognition. Old family albums tucked away in a damp basement won’t hold up forever. With no backup, once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.

“If we can get people thinking about preserving them then we’re better off for the future,” said Kerr.

Often times it’s an old handwritten letter or postcard from one distance relative to another that can provide the most insight into a family’s roots.

“It’s the social history that’s most interesting. You learn about their everyday lives,” Kerr added.

Following the Sept. 23 lab will be “If Buildings Could Talk with Lindi Peirce on Oct. 28 and Handwriting Analysis with Carol St. Clair on Nov. 25. Kerr says if those are successful, they will look to expand the programming into the spring months as well.

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