As the members of the Greatest Generation leave us, so too does part of our family history. The history of storytelling begins with families passing down history through centuries of oral tradition. But that doesn’t happen as much as it used to. Today, lots of forces are chipping away at the storytelling ritual.
- Families don’t always live together – older generations aren’t necessarily living with their children anymore and many live in a different state altogether.
- People are moving out of their hometowns to find the right jobs, so relatives spend more time apart.
- Old family movies and photos aren’t able to be shared because they’re captured on extinct formats like 8mm film, VHS and slides.
- And in a digital world where there’s a flood of information at our fingertips, it’s easy to forget that some of our most important family stories are only alive in our minds and in the minds of our aging loved ones.
Why Family Stories Matter
The benefits of family storytelling stretch far beyond the simple enjoyment of hearing the older generation recount stories of their youth or overcoming troubling times. A New York Times article on the importance of family stories cites a popular study that finds children benefit from knowing their family’s history and tend to be much more confident and resilient. In fact, knowing one’s family history was found to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.
Children really do benefit from knowing things like how their parents met or where grandma grew up. A free ancestry search can get you part of the way there, but for generations, people have shown their kids the family photo albums and told them stories about the people and places inside. This tradition reminds youngsters that they belong to something more important than themselves: their family.
But how do we bring the important art of storytelling into the modern, digital age?
Here at EverPresent, the national leader in digitizing old home movies and photos, we believe it’s time to rethink family storytelling, adapt it to our modern-day realities and enable it in the digital age. We know it is just as important to use the memories from the attic to make something shareable, like a custom slideshow or photo book. That way, not only are your family’s memories safe and preserved, but their story is easily shared for generations.
Unfortunately, many of our clients stop short of completing a family storytelling project. That’s why we recommend approaching your family history in two steps – make it digital and make it shareable.
Create a Digital Archive
from Your Memories
Generally speaking, most families know that if they don’t convert their old film reels, VHS tapes, slides and other aging formats to digital a large part of their family history will not be accessible for future generations. Not only are those formats deteriorating, but they aren’t safe from flood and fire either and can easily be lost. Sadly, when their shelf life runs out, so do the family memories they capture.
What’s just as concerning is a new struggle noted in the Boston Globe. Downsizing baby boomers are trying to give these family memories to their children – but film reels and photo albums take up so much space that the younger generations don’t want them! As a result, decades of priceless family moments are at risk of being lost forever.
Digitizing collections and making sure everything is safely backed up to the cloud and an external hard drive or thumb drive (preferably stored in a fire-safe box) can help families preserve precious stories for generations.
While creating a digital archive is a necessary step in preservation, it doesn’t contain the history associated with each photo or video. If it’s not easy to share and enjoy, family storytelling is even more in danger of becoming an extinct tradition. Here are the two main factors we see that affect sharing of a digital archive:
1. Time Constraints
Free time is a luxury for most people today. Many family collections are simply too big to enjoy in under an hour, and some even take days or weeks to get through. If your family rarely gets to see each other, they probably don’t have much time for a home movie marathon.
2. Lack of Context
We strongly suggest digitizing your collection, but it doesn’t always do enough to truly capture stories about the weddings and faces in old film reels and photographs. Without a firsthand, personal account of these people and places, it might not be clear who is pictured and a lot of the context and color surrounding family events and history can be lost.
EverPresent recommends to our clients that they go one step further and turn the memories in their digital archive into a short family history or mini-documentary, complete with narration by the family matriarch or patriarch. We’ve neatly packaged it all together into what we call a StoryBox.
MAKING FAMILY MEMORIES
into a SIMPLE & SHAREABLE STORY
Anytime you have the opportunity to blend digital versions of old family home movies and photos with pieces of written and oral history to tell the family story in a unique, personal way, take advantage – your family will thank you for it.
Nowadays there are many ways to get high-quality recordings of the family matriarch or patriarch telling tales of how the family immigrated to America or recounting what it was like growing up in their hometown. Once recorded, these incredible stories can be brought to life visually with a backdrop of old photos and home movies. Your loved ones’ thoughts and feelings add a narrative element that ties all of your photo and movie memories together in an incredible way.
Our most powerful and meaningful projects are the ones that combine all of these components in an engaging way that the whole family can easily enjoy in 15 minutes, whether all crowded around one TV, or in separate states on many different computers.
See a short preview clip of what’s possible for your family below.
THE MORAL OF YOUR STORY
Your family’s story doesn’t have to fade with your aging pictures and home movies, and the passing of loved ones. Modern-day storytelling is possible to do on your own with the right amount of organization, time and tech know-how, or through StoryBox by EverPresent.
A digital version of your family’s story can keep your family connected, help future generations and secure your family legacy and namesake. According to Bruce Feiler from the New York Times:
“The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”
What an amazing gift to give yourself and your family — enabling family storytelling in the digital age.
Find out more about EverPresent and our StoryBox packages. We make sharing your story easy and fun.