Digital memorabilia, like things in the form of electronic pictures, email messages and video and audio recordings, present different kinds of challenges when it comes to collecting, organizing and enjoying. An anthropological study* of how people collect, relate to and value memorabilia in their homes resulted in an interesting finding. Most people in the study (80%) cited feelings of frustration and guilt when it comes to the ability to easily and regularly access and enjoy digitally stored mementos. Unlike physical memorabilia that can be displayed or used in the home in a way that supports casual interaction or easily cues memories, people often need to make a conscious decision to seek out electronic memorabilia and then take the necessary steps to locate it via search or finding the storage media and then setting up the technology to view or hear the saved file. These barriers to access along with the large volume of saved digital pictures, videos and audio contributes to people feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and unable to enjoy the memories they work to capture and save.
Here are some ideas for reducing some barriers to enjoying digital memorabilia:
- Print pictures – The cost of printing pictures is quite low, often $0.09 per 4”x6” print, and printing companies often run specials (Shutterfly regularly offers 101 free prints where you just pay shipping). Consider printing more of your pictures to enjoy casually and even temporarily. You can place loose printed pictures in a basket in on the coffee table to invite others to look at them and to start conversations about the events and people the pictures capture. Don’t worry if the pictures get touched or wrinkled. You can print them again. The idea is to make your pictures accessible so you can enjoy them and share the stories and memories with others.
- Use a digital photo frame to display a rotating collection of pictures.
- Convert home movies from film or video tape to digital files. This serves two purposes. One, it backs up your videos off of media that will decay with time and two, it allows you to post and share videos to shared spaces so that you and your loved ones can more easily access them.
We collect memorabilia to remind of important events and people in our lives. Being able to enjoy these collections is important as is contributes to our sense of self and place and provides opportunities for sharing stories with others. In order to best serve it’s purpose, we must work to organize and store memorabilia so that it is accessible.
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*Whittaker, S. and Petrelli, D. 2010. Family Memories in the Home: Contrasting Physical and Digital Mementos. Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. 14-2, 153-169.