Preserving The Things That Money Can’t Buy

A few days ago, I bought an external hard drive and started the process of archiving a lot of items that basically would be irreplaceable. I’ve started making high-resolution scans of old family pictures, personal documents, and so on, and saving digital copies of videos as well. Eventually, I plan to take this drive, encrypt the entire thing, and place it in a safe deposit box.

It’s slow, time consuming, and, frankly, often boring (put the picture on the scanner, hit scan, take the picture off the scanner, file it appropriately, repeat…). Given that, there are several reasons I’m doing it.

First, going through these photos and videos is personally meaningful. They are visual reminders of people who have passed on – pictures of my grandparents and uncles and other ancestors, friends, and family members. As I go through them, a lot of memories have floated through my mind – I’ve laughed and cried while doing this many times.

Second, having a permanent archive of these items is very personally valuable. If something devastating happened to my home, this drive will be the record of all of those missing items.

Third, properly annotating the images enables the memories to be passed on to my children easily. I’m tagging the pictures as I go along, also often annotating images with appropriate stories and such by making up Word documents and saving them to the drive as well. I add in the images, write the annotations, and save the document, too.

Finally, sharing these memories with my family creates a new level of closeness. My wife is learning a lot about my family, from my ancestors to the people that she knows well. My own memory is brimming with things to tell her, and she can see the passion I feel about some of those memories. I can laugh about these memories with her, and she can put her arm around me when I tell a sad tale.

Even better: aside from the initial cost of the drive, this project is an extremely inexpensive and personally fulfilling way to fill the hours. It doesn’t cost much at all to look at old pictures, think about great family memories, write about the ones that I want to tell my children about someday, and move on to the next one.

To me, my computer and my scanner are providing a way for me to preserve the memories I hold most dear for only the smallest of costs. It takes time, but that’s time that’s spent in a deeply fulfilling way without the need to lay out a great deal of money. Even better, it’s something that’s (hopefully) personally valuable that I can pass on to my children.

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