Secrets from the Stacks: An archivist reveals how to store, digitize, and preserve documents to create a family archive and leave a personal legacy - Publish Your Purpose
Secrets From the Stacks

Secrets From the Stacks

Do you have boxes of old letters, photographs, keepsakes, and family heirlooms that you’d love to save for future generations? Imagine how thrilled your descendants will be a hundred years from now to discover what their ancestors’ lives were like and the challenges they overcame during the Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, the Gulf War, September 11, the worldwide pandemic, and other historical events. Today’s technology gives you the opportunity to preserve priceless memorabilia and add your story to the mix.

Archival best practices are vital to prevent decay and destruction of your family’s treasures. In Secrets from the Stacks, expert archivist Rhonda Chadwick guides you step-by-step on how to organize collections both small and large, properly store and archive photographs, preserve textiles and heirlooms crafted of metal and other materials, and digitize photos, emails, films, audio, and video. With warmth and humor, she reveals the methods archivists use to organize a family legacy, from preserving 19th-century daguerreotypes to 21st-century photos on your cellphone. You’ll learn how to store and ensure access to and retrieval of your social media accounts and digital assets, create memory books, audio and video oral histories with family members, and more. Finally, Chadwick teaches you how to prevent damage or loss of family heirlooms from natural disasters, fire, and theft.

Your cherished family stories and memories are important and don’t have to die when you do. Recording and preserving your family history is not just a gift for your relatives today; it gives future generations the opportunity to connect with the past and gain a deeper understanding of their own sense of self.

Rhonda Chadwick

About Rhonda Chadwick

Rhonda Chadwick is an experienced archivist who has worked at numerous libraries, archives, and museums throughout southern New England including the Rhode Island Historical Society, The John Hay Library at Brown University, The Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, The Rhode Island School of Design, and The American Textile History Museum in Lowell. She gives library lectures teaching patrons how to store photographs, books, and textiles, create a digital legacy, organize materials for better retrieval, and find creative ways of telling family and personal stories. She has a dual MLIS/Archives Management and MA History degree.

Rhonda owns a personal history business named after her grandmother and great-grandmother called LenaSalina Legacy Preservation, with a mission to teach people about long-term preservation and archival storage and assist them to create a family or personal archive. Rhonda also volunteers at a historical home and does historical reenactment.


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What People Are Saying

What People Are Saying

Just the book I’ve been waiting for! As a retired librarian/archivist I’ve been dealing with the guilt of seeing family papers and photographs sitting in multiple storage boxes just waiting to see the light of day and a firm organizing hand. As the only family member who seems interested in genealogy and family artifacts, I have become the keeper of the flame. And the years are ticking by rapidly. This book will give me the impetus to get my act together and plunge into those boxes. Yes, it is daunting. Start labeling those photographs (Who are these people?). Should I digitize a portion of them and distribute copies to all the relatives? Should I digitize them myself or pay someone to do it? What to do with the originals? All questions that I have been mulling over for years unsure about what to do. Now I know!

—Clare Sheridan, Head Librarian American Textile History Museum

A Must-Have Book for Preserving Family History! Who isn’t curious about the stories of family members who came before them? While it may be overwhelming to even think about how to capture these stories, both from the past and present, this book is your guide on how to do it. An easily understandable step-by-step guide, the book helps to take what can be a huge undertaking and break it into doable tasks. The author brings her extensive knowledge and years of experience as an archivist and history lover to help the average person organize and preserve their family histories, photographs, artifacts, and other treasures so that future generations may enjoy their ancestors’ stories. But even more than that, these stories provide researchers with a window into the past, giving clues as to what everyday life was like and connecting the dots into many unanswered questions. Chadwick intersperses her personal observations to underscore the importance of passing along family history to keep these stories alive and makes the book not only instructional, but also a most enjoyable read! This invaluable book makes a perfect gift for historians and novices alike and for anyone who is interested in carrying on their family’s history.

—Kathy Hartley, President Hearthside House Museum, Lincoln, RI

The tried-and-true methods (the secrets) of professional archivists. Archivists have a unique place in the historical and genealogical worlds. They preserve and make materials available for future researchers. In Secrets from the Stacks Rhonda teaches family historians and genealogists the tried-and-true methods (the secrets) professional archivists use so they can preserve their own family and personal records for future descendants. It’s not enough to save documents and research family trees. Knowing how to store, organize, categorize, and present both physical and digital information, is an integral part of maintaining a collection. Rhonda’s attention to detail and passion for history comes through on every page. Family historians and genealogists who want to preserve their collection like a professional archivist should buy this book.

—Karen Eberhart, Manuscripts Processing Archivist, Brown University

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