As a family curator or genealogist researching your family history, don’t you want to make sure that your research is valued and secure for the future? Don’t let your family research end up in the next generation’s trash.
Research or just gathering stuff?
We can get caught up in the research, making copious quantities of notes and saving every scrap of paper. But the question we should be asking is “What content will make future generations care about my story?” Stuff gathers and collections grow, but what’s the point? Do you have a clear intention of crafting a story for the grand kids that can be told over and over again or are you just gathering stuff? People are visual and family photographs top the list of objects that have the ability to connect with people’s emotions. Use the power of photos to connect with your future generation by adding metadata to them.
Metadata | Personal Data Keeps People Interested
The more metadata (data about each photo) your photos have, the more valuable they become to the next generation. Your photos take on a new life with stories and details about how people lived. Be wise and organize your photos with personal data in the form of metadata. You’re intimate with your research but take the point of view of a person who has never interacted with it before. Make your research intuitive. Your data should be so clear that someone from a different country or language can look at it for five minutes and know what’s in there and why it’s important.
Organizing Digital Files
If you can’t find stuff, neither will any one else. Part of the challenge is the identification of what’s inside your digital photo file. DSC_024.jpg or family.jpg doesn’t cut it. If it’s not labeled properly you won’t know and the chances of someone opening up thousands of photos to find out is remote.
- Name photos with the date and subject matter to give chronological reference
- Create a folder structure on your computer with meaningful category names
- Add metadata to digital photo files actually helps the end user understand what is inside the photo file before having to open it. Metadata is embedded in the digital file and it will create a level of organization that travels with your photo if it gets separated from it’s folder.
Keys to success
- Don’t just be organized, be intentional
The first time you come in contact with your photos should be the first step in your photo organization work flow. Even if it’s a small step and the only one you take, it’s better than nothing. If we aren’t being deliberate and intentional with our photos and family research, they won’t make it to the next generation.
- Preserve family stories and photos of people
It’s the stories and people photos that your family will care about in the future. Write your story in your own words. Anything you can do to make ancestors seem human goes a long way for future generations. Pull out stories and discoveries into non-genealogical terms. Keep your stories short in the form of captions that can be included as metadata for each photo. Keeping captions and descriptions short and clear will give your story more impact than a novel length narrative that is a work in progress.
- Research for end results
What are you doing with all that research? Have an objective for your message. This is a big aspect to preserving the family story and moving it forward. Decide intentionally what to preserve—don’t just keep everything. Bring forward your conclusions. What was this family all about anyway and why was it important? If you don’t decide, then later on down the line, someone else will. And they may decide your research is trash. Do it now, while you have control. Start today.