Thursday, June 16, 2016

Collecting vs. Saving: What Do You Plan to Do with Your Old Family Heirlooms?

What do you do when your home has become the designated family museum and you start looking to the future wondering what will become of these treasured heirlooms?

As Founder and Curator of The Family Museum and its Blog post, I have been immersed in family heirlooms for as long as I can remember. Since childhood, there has always been an artifact in my family’s home that was the property of another family member and sometimes friends. From Nana’s Nippon vase and dining room dishes, furniture and miscellaneous items like her meat grinder, these things were important to the family. As time went on, my parents made purchases for their house that I inherited; a piano, artworks, all of Nana’s things, and more.
After I was married, my husband and I started to build our own nest egg; furniture, dishes, artwork, etc. Then the moves came, from Illinois to Florida to Virginia. With each relocation, our stuff followed us and new things were added to the household. Then sadly, family members began to pass away, and more things came our way. Uncle Mike’s roll-top desk and highboy dresser, my father’s tools, Nana’s dining room
furniture, and many things from my husband’s parents after they passed away. My family is fortunate to have a commodious home where all of this and more fit in with our collections. But now, enough is enough! There is not one iota of space for anything more!
So after years of schlepping around boxes from attic, basement and garage, something had to be done with all of those little things that were saved along the way. So I created our Family Museum
Once that was done (but it will never be finished because we keep adding keepsakes) I began my blog, How to Create a Family Museum, writing about how others can and should create theirs.
As I wrote about the things in the museum, subject matter grew and I started to write about the family heirlooms and antiques that we lived with every day. And then it hit me; we live in a museum! Every room in our house has something from someone, passed onto my family. This was very enlightening. Each piece had a history & a story to tell. So I told many of them on my blog to the best of my ability, each narrative chronicled the life of the person who owned the object. Now has I walk through the rooms that have on display my family’s history, I am never alone; their memories are always with me.
As for wondering about what will become of your treasured heirlooms? Like mine, hopefully they will stay with the family, get passed down to the next generation, securing their place in your family history. So don’t be too quick to dispose of something old to only be replaced with something new that has no family history at all. Create that Family Museum. Live with your heirlooms, use them; keep the memories alive. After all, "A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies - all of the things that quite literally make us who we are." Steve Berry     

I hope this series of blog posts on Collecting vs. Saving, has given you some answers, some inspiration, and the courage to create your Family Museum. Watch for more posts on what is in our Family Museum. And this summer I am turning my blog into a book. I will keep you posted on its progress. And don’t forget, collectors and savers are happy people. So have fun while you create your Family Museum. Make it a family affair!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Collecting vs. Saving: Genealogy is another form of collecting

We all have an ancestry, parentage and relations. We all have an origin; the foundation of our existence, and we all have a heritage, and it is this birthright and legacy we should all honor.

Before the computer age, when one wanted to look into family history, it was time-consuming and difficult at best. I have deep respect for all those who endeavored in their searches, making every effort to investigate and find their family’s ancestry. Years ago my daughter and I visited Ellis Island to see if we could find any records on my Italian grandparents. Unfortunately, we did not. This whole movement to discover one’s ancestry did not come together until the Internet and mostly until the online search engine, became the investigative source. There are many other online sources. Check out this one.
Parentage is the study on how a family is connected. The paternal & maternal lines and how they are all intertwined (like a tree, hence the Family Tree) can be mind-boggling. When backgrounds and pedigrees are established, a completer picture is created. But when these details are missing, one can get very lost as they climb those branches. So research and collet those leaves.

Relations are another matter altogether. Connections, associations, links and lore, make interesting ties that bind. "As long as the ties that bind us together are stronger than those that would tear us apart, all will be well." However, we all need to work on our relations with family members. This can be accomplished by creating a Family Museum.       
Our origins are the stuff we are made of. Our roots, our beginnings and endings. Our DNA and RNA  (chromosomes) and our genetic material. Where did we come from? What routes did we take to get where we ended up? My husband participated in National Geographic Geno
2.0 Project and was very surprised to find out what his origins were. It is very enlightening and this research should become a part of your Family Museum. 

A couple of years ago I participated in Ancestry. Com’s DNA research and was absolutely gob smacked at what I discovered. Throughout my childhood I was told that I was more Italian than Lithuanian, but that is not true. I always thought I was more like my father then my mother. Now I know it to be true. So give it a go and discover not only from whence you came but what makes you, you.

As for heritage, how would you feel if you did not know who your people were, what societies they belonged to, what customs and traditions and beliefs they passed down to you and from you to your family? Our ethnicities are who we are. A simple way to understand heritage is by observing your own traditions. What do you do for the holidays? What kind of food are you most familiar with? How do you decorate your home? What histories interest you? All of these and so much more is what your heritage is made up of. I discovered this site that really has a profound emotion to it. Never be afraid to discover you.
So how is genealogy a form of collecting? Antiques and heirlooms passed down through generations as remembrances not only have sentimental value, they also have genealogical value. Your Family Museum is a great way to start building the foundation and creating a family tree. Instead of just their names and dates on a piece of paper, the keepsakes reveal aspects of your ancestor’s lifestyles, social status, level of education, attitudes of the times, and so much more. They come alive through your interpretation of their lives. Start collecting your genealogy today!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Collecting vs. Saving: Archiving Family Keepsakes

Here’s that word again . . . Organization. But instead of focusing on the physical aspect of organizing, let’s turn our efforts to quantifying, i.e.: purpose, vision, itemizing, detailing, cataloging, and then creating.
Objectives: the reasons you want to archive your family keepsakes. What is your motivation? Is there validation in your intention? The catalyst can be a simple incentive, such as saving that antique meat grinder of her grandmother’s. Or your father’s cigar box. Sit down and have a talk with yourself and then share your thoughts with your family. Saving should be fun and not burdensome. Give it, yourself and your family time.

The Plan: Architects and designers start out with a vision. What’s yours? Here is a chance to get back to basics by actually taking pencil, paper and a ruler in hand and draw out how you envision your archival space. Sketch an image. When my family decided to create our Family Museum, I sat down and drew a picture, measuring the available space along the way. Ask the family for their ideas, how they see it. Make this a family affair.

Documenting: Start by taking a photograph of each heirloom. Record which relative owned the object and tell the object’s story. What is it? Who owned it? And why is it important to the family? Place photographs in boxes, a box for each person. Once the boxes are filled and others are needed, do so. Once the photographs are in their proper box, organize each box, starting with dates, and if no dates are found, give a good guesstimate. There are many photo-journaling sites that have a variety of online tutorials and products that offer guidance on how to document photographs. Visit this site and you might recognize a familiar link. 
NOTE: A post from 04/2014, I wrote about making Memory Boxes for each family member. During our lifetimes, we accumulate many little things that mean a lot and instead of stashing them in a non-descript box, make a Memory Box. Fill it with all those odd-ball things and as the post said, give it as a present. You will be surprised at how thrilled the owner of those things are and glad that you took the time and thought to save it for them. Hopefully, they will take it from there.

This is also the best time to create an inventory. Look at it this way – you are organizing the future. History as taught us that if it were not for the physical inventories taken by households from the past, diligently logged into and recorded in both small and large books for posterity, how would our descendants know what we had. They wouldn’t.
Also, this is a good time to make vocal recordings. Voice is magic. Document it!
Separating: Here comes the piles! Stacks and heaps of paper, however, don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill. All of these physical records can be organized, a little at a time. The importance of the papers should be considered first. What kind are they? Property Deeds, Wills, Certificates. Get file folders, title each one and put the corresponding documents in that folder.
Once this is finished, digitize the paper documents. Check this site for help. 

Objective/þ, Your Plan/þ, Documenting/þ, Inventory/þ, Recordings/þ, Separating/Digitizing/þ. Now you are ready to create your Family Museum. Check out this post: on building materials. Then read this post on where there is space: 

As you peruse these and other posts, many of your questions will be answered. The purpose, the rationale, the function and the intent should be foremost in your mind: your Family Museum is where to . . .
"Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future."  Quote by: Mattie Stepanek

Monday, June 13, 2016

Art of Rearrangement . . .

What is Saving? It is protecting, conserving, rescuing, salvaging, reviving, and the storing of precious things, or maybe not so precious things, yet important enough for you to cherish. The past has value. Most of all, saving is not holding onto things you don’t need, it’s about holding onto things that teach us who we are and where we came from.
So, you save things. You put them away. You store them perhaps thinking that may be one day it will get used again. However, that day does not come and the things are still in the boxes. What do you do? Throw them away? NO! Give them away? NO! What you should do is take the things out of the box, give them a fair assessment and then ask yourself if you should keep them? The answer is YES! Why? Because something possessed you to keep them in the first place.

Yes, it is a challenge to organized and hold onto things, however, by creating a Family Museum, you are preserving your memories. The way to achieve success at this endeavor is the art of rearrangement, how to organize those things in a systematized, orderly arrangement, and by doing this fixes the problem of disorganization.
The key word is organization – one box at a time. The selecting part takes time. Picking the items out, deciding between one or more of the heirlooms, dividing the space equally, and sometimes having to draw the line as to what gets saved.
There is an art to display. Look at museum’s smaller collections, department store showcase windows or visit antique shops and observe how a vendor presents their collections. The space you have will dictate how you will display your heirlooms. Organize items in groups. The main idea is to express through display the history of the heirloom and the person behind it.
Now you ask, where is there space in my home? Take a walk around your house, apartment, condo, wherever you call home. Pay particular attention to unused space. Closets, spare bedrooms, roomy hallways. A modicum of space in the living, dining, and family room will do fine. Assess the space. What is there now? How is it used? What is displayed? Can it be moved somewhere else? Can you eliminate some of those things? Bookcases, china and curio cabinets can be mini-museums. Even create personal museums, such as in the home office displaying the occupant’s career. Also in a child’s bedroom where they can create their own museum.
But remember, the main purpose of saving things is to display them. That is the principle reason for your Family Museum. There is plenty of help through websites that guide you, suggesting ways & means that fit your situation. This blog, How to Create a Family Museum, has a plethora of instructions and ideas of how to go about incorporating the art of rearrangement. Look through the blog’s archives and select the post that will give you the most help. Tomorrow I will address how to archive family keepsakes. 
Professional organizer Scott Roewer coined the phrase, “Art of Rearrangement.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Collecting vs. Saving: The Comfort of Things . . .

Everyone has an opinion. Many, particularly those in the field of analyzing human behavior, who, with my pedestrian knowledge on the study of the brain, have come to the conclusion that they are even still confused about the whys and wherefores as to why people collect, even after all their exploration and evaluations are through. Therefore, to simply state it, people collect and people save. It’s only human nature that we do. So let’s start out with an uncomplicated theory: things give us comfort.  

Accumulation of things presents a tangible expression of a person or household. From the decorations hanging on the walls, to whose photographs are on display, and what collections are arrayed on mantelpieces. Material objects also help deal with loss and change and provide comfort. Collecting is also a great hobby. One can also learn about people through the medium of their things. There is a complex role played by objects in our lives, and indeed in our relationships with others. Becoming attuned to the presence of material forms can sometimes speak more easily and eloquently to the nature of relationships than can people themselves.
Does this make any sense to you? Kind of, you may think. Say, for example, you invite a new friend to your home and conversations are a bit awkward at first. Then you point out your collections of antique paper weights, each having a story to tell. Everyone had some kind of paper weight in their life and this subject may induce a lively conversation that will create a comfort zone. People like to tell stories and people like to hear them as long as you involved them by asking questions about their collections.   

So what do you collect? And why do you collect?  When people think of collecting, they may imagine expensive works of art or historical artifacts that are later sold to a museum or listed on eBay.  The truth is, for many people who amass collections, the value of their collections are not monetary but emotional —and often, not for sale. Collections allow people to relive their childhoods, to connect themselves to a period in history or to a time they feel strongly about. Their collections may help keep the past present, creating a comfortable atmosphere in which to live. However, do you feel overwhelm with stuff, fear that you are more connected to your material possessions more so then your relationships with people? That the more materialistic you become the more superficial you are, and that your relationships with people suffer as a result? Hogwash! The opposite is true; that possessions often remain profound and usually the closer our relationships are with objects, the closer are relationships with people.”
Collectors are really happy people.  Collecting is still mostly associated with positive emotions. There is the happiness from adding a new find to the collection, the excitement of the hunt, the social camaraderie when sharing their collection with other collectors. It is the comfort of things. Nevertheless, saving is all together another aspect. Saving has its own characteristic and purpose, which will be explained in tomorrow’s post.

The title of this blog, “The Comfort of Things,” is from a book written by Daniel Miller; Cambridge: Polity, 2008

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Collecting vs. Saving . . .

Collecting stuff: Amassing, Accumulating, Expand, Magnify, thrill-of-the-hunt, Mount a Collection
Saving Things:   Treasuring, Cherishing, Appreciating, Respecting, Displaying, Telling a Life History

Which do you do? Perhaps both. And that is fine. For example, I have an ongoing search for Mexican Feather Craft. Every time I going to an antique store, I search in vein trying to find one. The hunt for one is the most exciting part and then bringing it home. (Many times I receive these famed birds-of-a-feather from my kids who love to find them for me and surprise me. And they do often). The second part of the thrill of collecting is when you add it to the collection you have. As time goes on I begin to notice how many I have of them and think sometimes perhaps I should not collect them any longer. I ask myself, what am I going to do with them if I have to move or downsize? Does anyone else want them? All very good questions. Do I have the answers? Yes!   

However, in opposition to collecting there is saving . . . as in Creating a Family Museum. This is the place where collections do not go, other than a small and varied grouping of likewise items, such as childhoods keepsakes, souvenirs from special occasions, items of clothing, heirlooms from grandparents, school day mementoes, and many more elements and particulars that should be kept, set-aside, protected, at times may even need rescuing and salvaging so the value and significance is reclaimed and in the process a life history is rediscovered.  Yet questions are asked: Where to put and how to create a family museum. Do I have the answers? Yes!

Everyday starting next Monday, I am going to post a story from both sides of the aisle: collection vs. saving. There will be my take and links that inform you on many of the aspects and to hopefully enlighten you on some of the things people collect and many of the ways people save. So log on.

Till then . . . The Family Museum Curator

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A month for Celebrations . . .

June . . . the month for caps & gowns and brides & grooms.
Graduations and weddings are celebrated: we applaud, rejoice, and party. Both of these times also generate memories. And it is these remembrances; the gifts, cards, photographs, souvenirs, etc., all should be saved to go into the Family Museum now or in your future.

Top of our Wedding Cake
In our Family Museum, there are keepsakes, reminders, and even a few relics that give us the opportunity to recall those times. Many hold a mixed bag of feelings; both good and some that lag in the back of our collective memory. Here are a few of them we still cherish:
Keith's High School keepsakes

From Lizzie's High School reunion
Our daughters diploma’s & tassel, and son’s school day keepsakes.
All take up little space in the museum yet hold abundant recollections. So save the reminders, souvenirs and gifts, all of which contributes to
Your Family history.