Save Our African American Treasures: Houston

The following is a guest post by Erin Engle, Digital Archivist, NDIIPP.

Last weekend, I participated in the Save Our African American Treasures Program at the Houston Public Library. The Treasures Program is a collections and education initiative of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

For the past few years, NMAAHC’s dedicated team has traveled around the country providing one-on-one professional consultation to the public on how to care for family memorabilia, whether the objects are photographs, clothing or other personal treasures. The program also provides an educational opportunity for the local community to learn about the new museum (set to open on the National Mall in 2015) and to raise awareness about the importance of preserving important family heirlooms for future generations.

This is the third time I’ve had the pleasure of joining the program, speaking about preserving personal digital information. In Houston, my talk gave an overview of the personal digital archiving guidance we developed here at the Library. I focused on preserving digital photos (PDF). The audience asked some really great questions, some of which my colleagues and I have been asked at other public events, like the 2011 National Book Festival and Personal Archiving Day.

Lately we’ve been thinking about how to expand our personal digital archiving guidance based on the questions and feedback we receive at these events. We recently added new resources to our web site – How to Scan Your Personal Collections (PDF) and How Long Will Digital Storage Media Last? (PDF). And, we find one of the best ways to connect with individuals has been through this blog.

20101016_hmd_jodiecam_092, by punkybuddha, on Flickr

20101016_hmd_jodiecam_092, by punkybuddha, on Flickr

Frequently on The Signal we talk about our personal experience saving our own digital photos, talk about the importance of adding descriptive information to our photos and even look more in-depth at descriptive metadata for photos.

In Houston, rather than about photos, I was asked many questions about transferring old family movies on film or VHS tape to the DVD or CD format. The biggest questions: can I do this? And where do I start?

My response is always, “It’s great you’re thinking about this because that’s the first step!” Unless individuals are interested in investing many hours and efforts themselves, I usually tell people to search their favorite web browser for a service that performs “film transfer” or “VHS conversion” that they would feel comfortable using.

For those individuals who are interested in learning more about how these processes work and why it’s important, check out Home Movie Day. It has very good information about transfer and preservation information for home film and movies.

It’s clear that lots of people want guidance on preserving and digitizing home movies.  What kind of information or resources can you suggest ?

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