Miryelle Resek | Aug 30, 2017

Your Attic and the Library of Alexandria | Documents Distributed

This is the second of a two-part series. Read part one.

We discussed a few similarities between your attic and the Library of Alexandria in part one. Here we’d like to discuss a few more ways your attic full of family history is connected with the Library of Alexandria.

Preserve Documents

Did the Library of Alexandria really have 400,000–500,000 books? Did Mark Antony actually give Cleopatra 200,000 books to add to the collection as a wedding gift? How many books of mathematics, medicine, history, and science did this library contain? Tragically, we don’t exactly know. But while many of these books were destroyed, there were others that survived.

So how can we take care of the documents we’ve been entrusted with? In their RootsTech 2017 presentation, father-daughter team Don A. Carpenter and Janet Hovorka gave a few suggestions for what to do with physical copies of documents:

  • Carefully remove staples, paper clips, or rubber bands from your documents.
  • Take any uneven pressure off. Ensure that your documents lay perfectly flat.
  • Never apply tape to or laminate your documents.
  • Never fold or roll your documents.

They also suggested you protect your documents from:

  1. Fluctuating temperatures
  2. Humidity
  3. Light
  4. Over handling (use labeled boxes)
  5. Insects
  6. Dust
  7. Acidic gases

Care for digital copies by using effective metadata for tagging and labeling. Further, make sure you have the highest quality photos. Hovorka and Carpenter said that while 72 DPI (dots per inch) is great if you’re planning to view a photo on a screen, consider having photos that are 300–1,200 DPI so that people can print them in the future. They said, “When you double the DPI, you quadruple the file size.”

Another piece of advice they offered is to “make sure [the scanner has] clean glass, and make sure you save [the photo] in several different file types, because who knows? Four generations from now, you may be able to open a JPEG, but you may not be able to open a TIFF. And PDFs will break up pictures. PDFs are not the way [to] save pictures, because it shatters the image. And sometimes you can get a good color scan out of a black-and-white picture, and sometimes you can get the best color resolution out of a black-and-white scan too.”

And the best way to ensure that the documents are preserved? Distribute them. 

Distribute Documents

In their presentation, the duo reminded us of the “Library of Alexandria rule for genealogists, [which] is copy, share, copy, share.” Anciently, because copies of records were distributed throughout the world instead of remaining only at the state-of-the-art library, we still have some of those records.

Scholars such as Eratosthenes, Hypatia, Claudius Ptolemy, Euclid, Archimedes, and even Aristotle were all connected with the Library of Alexandria. Luckily we still have many of their studies, all of which have influenced modern society. But what would’ve happened if they had only made one record of their works and stored it only in the Library of Alexandria?

Making copies of our own history and sharing them with relatives can also ensure that our legacy will live on. The father-daughter team gave the following suggestions:

  • Distribute copies to family members.
  • Distribute copies online using social media.
  • Consider distributing large, established records of family history to genealogical libraries or societies.

While we may be familiar with the first two of the following four points, the team also gave a few pointers to those who are considering giving some of their genealogy to large organizations:.

  1. Know what the organization is interested in. If they’re interested in genealogical data, they might not be as interested in journals.
  2. Ensure that the organization will screen out sections that your family considers confidential.
  3. Read the donation agreement. Specify if you want the originals or copies of the originals back.
  4. Ask historians affiliated with your ancestor’s religious, military, educational, governmental, or business organization if they would like to use your ancestor’s documents.
  5. Find out what the organization’s policies for storage, preservation, and access are.

When you have all the information you need, you can “donate copies of your journals and histories to those organizations who would value them.”

How are some ways you’re distributing your ancestor’s documents? Tweet us your ideas @RootsTechConf.

Miryelle Resek

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