Professional Help for the Organizationally Impaired

If you're intimidated by the stacks of school papers, drawings and certificates in the broken-down cardboard box at the back of your closet, or that desk drawer full of undated photos, don't worry! You, too, can begin and finish a family archive with a bit of "professional help".

Here are some avenues to explore before you begin, if only for ideas:

Computer software. If you have a home PC or Mac, there is a huge variety of software available in all price ranges to help you compile your family genealogy and/or assemble an electronic family album. At a recent trip to our local discount electronics & entertainment emporium, I found four goodies that would work on my Windows95 machine:
Family Ties (Individual Software Company, $15)
Family Gathering CD-ROM (Palladium Interactive, $40)
Family Tree Maker (Broderbund, $78, the top-seller in genealogy programs)
Family Album Creator (Creative Wonders/ABC Electronic Arts, $45)

Remember: Take some time to read any software packaging carefully before you buy, or you're likely to be disappointed. Make sure your home PC meets the minimum system requirements listed, and take into consideration that a program with all the bells and whistles for using sound, Kodak PhotoCD images, video clips, etc., may sound great, but is useless if you don't have a CD-ROM drive, soundblaster, video capture board and/or digital camera. These goodies cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars! A leather-bound album with acid-free paper pages costs less than $50, so think carefully before you go all electronic.

Memory Consultants. For a reasonable price, a professional "memory consultant" will come to your home and teach you, your family, and your friends how to organize your personal archives, and show you creative, professionally-prepared examples (sort of like a Tupperware party with pictures). These consultants also offer conservation-quality supplies which won't degrade over time, which is definitely worth the investment for a family heirloom. At this year's National Home & Garden Show, I counted six different memory consultant booths, so they're definitely out there. Look in your local phone book. (For the truly busy and/or intimidated, one consultant I talked to would actually interview the whole family, then take away boxes of "stuff" and return a month later with gorgeous, fully-labeled albums/scrapbooks. Oy vay, was she expensive, though!)

Video Services. During "off-season" many professional wedding videographers and studios will take your VHS & Beta video, home movies, still pictures, and slides, and "capture" them in order onto a new video tape with captions. This service is often called a "video picture album." In our area, the going rate is $3 per photo, $5 per electronic source, with a 100-photo minimum. This is a great way to share your family memories with everyone, because duplicates of the video tape are very inexpensive. But video tape is not an archive medium; it has a 20-year life span, tops, so you'll have to "archive" your memories again later using a different technology.

by Nichola Toda Krause

© 1997 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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