Learn How to Archive Your Treasures While at Home

boxes of old family photos
Learn to save family memories, Photo: Hunter Bliss/123RF

With most of the world staying home, people are finding all kinds of ways to pass the time and use it wisely, so it only makes sense that many are embarking upon various projects around the house. Some feel the need to learn Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit” on piano or write the next great American novel, but most are satisfied plumbing the depths of our basements and attics, dusting off old boxes and separating the junk from the treasures contained within. Who knows what we’ll find?

With this advanced level of spring cleaning in mind, and a desire to offer something unique to the region during a difficult time, Long Island Library Resources Council (LILRC) has created a free Ask an Archivist: At-Home Preservation Series of live Zoom workshops. Led by LILRC archivist Nicole Menchise, these webinars, which are also available to watch after they’re finished, teaches viewers how properly preserve family legacies and heirlooms, including photographs, letters, ceramics, glass, textiles, scrapbooks—and even oral histories.

This could definitely come in handy after unearthing antiques and memories from those old attic and basement boxes. And more are on the way.

Nicole Mechise
Nicole Menchise

The ongoing series will also explore ways to display archive materials, get the most archival supplies for your money, and more in future additions. So far, Menchise has offered valuable information and insight on each topic, starting with Preserving an Old Stack of Letters on March 27, Dos and Don’ts of Oral Histories on April 3, Cleaning Ceramics and Glass on April 7, and Folding Textiles for Long-Term Storage on April 10.

Menchise’s next webinar, Ask An Archivist: Safely Displaying Archival Materials, is scheduled for Tuesday, April 14 at noon; followed by More Bang For Your Buck: Making the Most of Preservation Materials on Friday, April 17 at noon; and Preserving What’s Been Stuck In That Old (Scrap)Book on Tuesday, April 21 at noon. Click the links to register for individual workshops.

Anyone who wants to watch the webinars live will receive an emailed certificate for one hour of professional development upon completion.

Past workshops are available for anyone to watch via Vimeo and, as any dutiful archivist would, Menchise presents each hour-long session with supplemental information, including a printed list of questions and answers, and her presentation slides, which are loaded with well organized, bullet-pointed facts and concepts to aid even the most attention impaired person grasp what she’s saying.

In her first video, Preserving an Old Stack of Letters, Menchise explains the series was “random idea” she and a colleague had just one week before, to “do some relevant things for folks through the archives world.” She then looked to her old live workshops and figured out how to break them down into more digestible snippets to teach viewers “how to process things that are not only in your organization’s collection, but maybe the collection that you’re working with at home, because we’re all trying to find new projects and things to do at home to keep ourselves busy.”

Watching the videos, it’s remarkable what Menchise was able to do in such a short amount of time, and with the resources at hand. As she says, “It’s never an ideal situation when you’re working out of your living room.”

Menchise is the Digitization and Archives Coordinator for the Long Island Library Resources Council, one of nine councils that make up the Empire State Library Network, and she says the webinars have helped her feel more connected with her hands-on work since having to stay home. “I’ve really missed working with the collection,” Menchise explains, noting how much she’s enjoyed revisiting the old skills and techniques she learned while cutting her teeth in the field. “I think I’m going to do more.”

Look for an announcement about the next list of workshops on Tuesday, April 14.

You can view the entire “Ask an Archivist: At-Home Preservation Series” and all supplemental information, including session questions and answers, and presentation slides, as well as any future installments at lilrc.org/ask-the-archivist.

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