Tip of the Week, February 26, 2006
Last week's tip looked at ways of deciding which keepsakes to hold onto for the long haul and which to bid adieu. This week, we'll explore ways of storing or displaying your memorabilia, along with resources that can help ensure the safety of your mementos for years to come.
Storing vs. displaying
Once you've chosen the photos, letters, heirlooms, and other items you want to keep, the next step is deciding which ones to display and which to store. When making these decisions, try asking yourself the following questions:
- Do I like this thing enough to want it on display? Not every meaningful item you choose to keep will be pleasant enough to look at every day.
- Can I safely display it? Some things--especially older items or those made of fragile materials--might not be able to handle the exposure to light, air, moisture, and dust that display could involve.
- Do I have room to display it? Remember, the goal is to surround yourself with meaningful keepsakes without feeling cluttered, cramped, or overwhelmed.
As a general rule, aim to pick a few favorites that you can safely and comfortably display, and plan to store the rest.
How you display the things you've chosen will depend on what they are, how fragile they are, and what your display space is like. You might, for example, opt to showcase a collection of silver candlesticks on your mantel, provided that the space isn't subject to a lot of moisture and offers enough room to hold the objects you want to display. Old family photos could be matted on acid-free paper, enclosed in simple matching frames, and hung in a collection on a wall that is otherwise empty and isn't in the path of direct sunlight.
Whatever display methods you choose, make sure they allow you to enjoy your mementos while keeping them safe. Be aware of potential hazards like children, pets, natural occurrences (such as earthquakes or flooding), and potential contaminates like dust, mold, and moisture. Remember that it's always possible to change or undo a display if you find you don't like it or if it seems unsafe.
You will likely find that many of the mementos you want to keep will need to be stored, due to display space limitations, the nature of the items themselves, or your own preferences. Choosing the best storage solutions for your memorabilia is an important step in avoiding damage or deterioration.
Storage recommendations depend on a number of factors, including how old an item is, what it's made of, and what sort of climate you live in. In general, it's always best to avoid spots with extreme temperatures--such as garages, basements, and attics--or any location that's subject to excessive moisture or dryness, pest infestations, extreme dust, or other contaminates.
The Resources section below features links to comprehensive information on how to store and preserve a wide variety of memorabilia. You don't necessarily need fancy containers, tools, or gadgets to keep your mementos safe, but they will definitely benefit from an organized and well thought-out storage system.
Sharing the memories
Finally, as you sort through your mementos--or others', if you're tasked with taking care of a parent's or friend's items--you may well find that you want (or need) to distribute them among a group. Choosing who gets what can be an involved process, and it's beyond the scope of this tip, but there are two excellent books that can walk you through it. Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home by Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand and Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate? by M. Stum can help bring order and ease to what's often a messy and challenging task.
I've found the following sites, articles, and resources particularly useful; each has detailed information on storing, displaying, and preserving your mementos.
- How to Preserve Your Keepsakes, Tools for Preserving Keepsakes, and Keepsakes Inventory Worksheet from Real Simple magazine
- Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions by Don Williams and Louisa Jaggar
- Preservation projects and techniques at About.com's Genealogy site