2018 June – Family Archiving

Family Archiving: Heirlooms in the Digital Age

Coordinator: Denise May Levenick, MA

Additional Course Instructors:

  • Shelley Ballenger Bishop, Professional Genealogist
  • Pam Stone Eagleson, CG
  • Sierra Green, Archivist, Detre Library, Heinz History Center
  • Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Held June 24-29, 2018, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.

Did you inherit the Family Bible? Or, were you tasked with emptying a family home filled with photos, documents, and memorabilia? Ancestral artifacts, whether found in private or public collections, can extend family trees, confirm kinship, and enrich family histories with social context and personal stories.

This hands-on course will offer researchers of all skill levels guidance in understanding, preserving, and incorporating family collections in legacy family history projects.

Workshop sessions will offer the opportunity to experiment with scanners and digitizing tools and because we learn through doing, the course will include projects designed to help students practice preservation, digitizing, and archival skills throughout the week.

Students are encouraged, but not required, to bring digitized materials from their own collections for class projects. More information about recommended items and suitable projects will be sent to attendees by email.

This course is suitable for:

  • Genealogists who inherit family collections and want to learn how to organize, digitize, and preserve materials.
  • Family historians seeking ways use material culture to enrich genealogical projects.
  • Professionals interested in offering archival assistance to clients seeking help digitizing, organizing, and understanding the significance of family keepsakes
  • Society members responsible for the care and curation of small collections, including paper, photographs, memorabilia, and artifacts.

NOTE: A materials fee of $20 will be payable to the instructor in class for a preservation tools kit that you will take home.


8:15 a.m. Introductions

8:30 a.m. Roles and Responsibilities of the Family Archivist (Denise Levenick)

Family historians who inherit photos, documents and memorabilia, and genealogists who work with privately held family collections must often go beyond the role of researcher to become archivists, curators, and publishers. We will explore strategies for working with small collections owned by individuals, families, societies, or community organizations.

The morning session will introduce real-life materials and examples from a “typical” estate, and in small groups, we will sort, purge, and curate items to create a Course Family Collection to be used in Lab Workshops throughout the week.

10:15 a.m. Archival Storage Strategies and Solutions (Denise Levenick) This session will introduce best practices for long-term preservation storage and selection of appropriate archival containers for photographs, film, documents, and artifacts. A variety of storage solutions will be discussed, including construction of archival folders and textile storage enclosures. We will also discuss how to locate and set up a home archive to hold family collections accessible for research and sharing.

1:00 p.m. Working with Family Photo Collections (Denise Levenick) Common challenges and solutions for working with old photographs, negatives, film, whether loose or mounted in albums. We’ll discuss different kinds of photos, organizing strategies, and practical preservation.

2:45 p.m. Material Culture Workshop: Curating, Preserving, and Archiving (Denise Levenick) What does it mean to “curate” a collection? How do we select appropriate items to tell a family story? Using items from the morning lecture, students will describe, store, cite a variety of artifacts, discuss challenges in their own family collections and practice making custom-made archival enclosures.

4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Optional Project Lab
Optional Lab Workshop to create archival storage enclosures and discuss individual archival projects.


8:30 a.m. Hot DAM! Digital Asset Management for Genealogists (Denise Levenick) Digital archiving results in thousands of images and files across computers and mobile devices. This session focuses on practical strategies and workflows for digital file management, including backup, adding metadata, filenaming, captioning, and sharing.

10:15 a.m. Grandma’s Treasure Chest: Investigating and Evaluating Family Artifacts (Pamela Stone Eagleson, CG) Do you ever wonder why certain items are saved by our ancestors? This lecture examines objects that might be found in Grandma’s Treasure Chest – describing them, identifying sources to learn about them, evaluating the information found in them, learning the stories they tell, and citing the artifacts.

1:00 p.m. Transcribe, Abstract, Extract Home Sources (Shelley Ballenger Bishop) Skillful transcriptions, abstracts, and extracts are the foundation of understanding and using home sources for genealogy. Case studies illustrate when to use each information technique and offer tips for organizing and analyzing the details.

2:45 p.m. Digitizing Workshop: New Techniques for Cameras, Scanners, and Tripods (Denise Levenick) This hands-on workshop will demonstrate digitizing options and give students an opportunity to work with various scanners, accessories, and digitizing setups.

4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Optional Project Lab
Optional Lab Workshop for digitizing equipment.


8:30 a.m. Selecting and Preparing Digital Images for Publication (Denise Levenick) This session takes a close look at choosing the best pictures for your digital photo project and how to optimize those images for the best results. We’ll cover minimum size and resolution requirements, organizing project images, and how to convert file formats to be publication–ready.

10:15 a.m. Facts, Photos and Fair Use: Copyright Law for Genealogists (Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG) Understanding what is and isn’t copyrighted and what genealogists can and can’t use is the key to staying out of trouble and to protecting our own work.

1:00 p.m. Paper and Ink: Online Publishing Options for Family History Projects (Shelley Ballenger Bishop) Daunted by the idea of publishing a family history book? Learn how easy it is to create a meaningful keepsake with Ancestry.com and MyCanvas, as well as other popular online services including Blurb, Shutterfly, and Mixbook. We’ll look at ways to create attractive books without hiring a graphic design firm, and highlight the best features of some of the most popular online services.

2:45 p.m. Publication Workshop I: Student Projects (Denise Levenick and Shelley Bishop) Students at all skill levels will work individually on a personal family history project. Details and image recommendations will be sent by email after registration.

4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Optional Project Lab
Optional Lab Workshop to discuss and work on student projects.


8:30 a.m. Elements of Good Design: Start with a Style Guide (Denise Levenick) Serif or san serif? Helvetica or Arial? Kerning, picas, and pixels. If you’ve ever wondered why some books, or websites, just look better than others, you’ll find answers in this discussion of basic “good design” for print and for web. This lecture will highlight the importance of understanding font families when selecting typefaces for a project; the role of white space, margins and leading; and when to use, or omit, illustrations

10:15 a.m. An Archivist’s Guide to Family Collections (Sierra Green) This session will explore the process through which institutional archivists acquire, preserve, and prepare a collection of unique records to be accessible for research with an emphasis on how to adapt and apply this knowledge to care for and organize a personal or family documentary collection. This lecture will be especially helpful to those considering donating a personal or family collection and to professional genealogists who are asked to assist clients in preparing materials for future gifts to archival institutions.

1:00 p.m. Family History Projects for the Digital Age (Denise Levenick) Beyond paper and ink, innovative digital projects offer new ways to share photographs, artifacts, and stories.

2:45 p.m. Publication Workshop II: Student Project (Denise Levenick) We will continue working on a personal family history project with the goal of leaving GRIP with a publication ready project. Details and image recommendations will be sent by email after registration

4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Optional Project Lab

Optional Lab Workshop to discuss and work on student projects.


8:30 a.m. Orphan Heirlooms: Finding a Home for Lost History (Denise May Levenick) Unidentified photos, heirlooms with “lost stories,” and keepsakes without a home are all orphans. Case studies will demonstrate techniques for learning more about stray items, and strategies for identifying and locating descendants and returning keepsakes to the family line.

10:15 a.m. Opportunities in Family Archiving and Course Wrap Up (Denise May Levenick) We will wrap-up the week with a discussion of further opportunities in the field of personal and family archiving including extended learning and professional client services, and by sharing student projects and future challenges.

Before noon: Distribution of certificates and farewells.