Organizing and Preserving Stories – The Role of a Personal Archivist/Story Organizer
In this blog post, I will break down what it means to be a story organizer. I call myself a story organizer, but you may be asking yourself what that means for you. You might understand the role of a professional organizer or heard of the new buzz about photo organizers, but those titles are categories of more specific services. As a story organizer, I might incorporate one or all of those things in a project. Figuring out what to do with your family, veteran, or community collections might seem like a monumental task if you are just getting started. This is why I help you break it down into manageable steps and focus on the organizing part as one of the primary foundations. This will help you to become the confident guardian of your family, veteran, or community stories.
Here are a few definitions that I’ll use as you start thinking about leaving legacies to the next generation and moving past collecting into organizing.
Archivist: Those who assess, collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to archives (permanently valuable records). In a professional sense, they are the ones who hold professional positions that adhere to national and international standards and best practices of archives management.
Part of the reason why I’m pursuing a professional degree in Archives Management is I want to instill this foundational methodology into my client’s personal collections. But we aren’t going to get hung up on the word “archives” because it might seem too formal when all you want to do is scan your old family photos to share with your family.
Collections: This can mean your photos, documents, memorabilia, records, or anything that you have kept or inherited for personal or professional value. Think of all those things hiding in boxes (or computers) in basements or attics that someday you will get around to organizing.
Story Organizer: Generally you can think of a story organizer as a person who can help you transition from the collecting part to the organizing part so that you can more easily provide access and enjoy your collections. This is where you and I come together to develop your organizational process that empowers you to make your collections more manageable and meaningful. Once those collections are organized, you can create beautiful and meaningful legacies instead of leaving your loved ones with a bunch of clutter destined for the landfill.
The more formal definition of Story Organizer: A tool used to help writers break down a story into manageable pieces. It is a graphic representation of the plot, characters, and settings in a story. The story organizer is used to help the writer brainstorm and organize the elements of the story to create a cohesive narrative. It can also be used to help the writer identify any gaps or information that needs to be added.
That definition works well too, because if you think about it, you are the “writer” or keeper of your stories. Maybe, you just need some inspiration and organization to put the stories together to enjoy, reflect upon, or pass down for continued knowledge and connections. My favorite part of our work together is putting those into a beautifully printed book, but we can’t do that until images are digitized, organized, and the stories are attached.
The Power of Organizing
Organizing is the cornerstone of my services. Imagine stepping into someone else’s garage as a mechanic or their kitchen as a chef. Similarly, you’ve inherited or created collections, and the prospect of managing them might feel daunting. Creating an effective organization for your collections involves structuring and managing your records, artifacts, and narratives in a way that ensures accessibility, preservation, and meaningful use. Here are four main outcomes of becoming organized with your collections:
Enhanced Accessibility and Retrieval:
An organized collection makes it easier to locate specific items such as documents, photos, or memorabilia. With a well-designed system, you or others can quickly access the information you need when you need it. This is particularly valuable when you want to share stories, research family lineage, or simply create photo albums.
Preservation and Longevity:
Effective organization includes proper storage and preservation techniques. By arranging and storing items in a way that prevents deterioration or data loss, you can ensure that your collections are preserved for future generations or when you need them. Utilizing archival methods and backup solutions contributes to the longevity of your collections and will ultimately release you from the stress and overwhelm of disorganization.
Meaningful Storytelling and Narrative Creation:
When your collections are organized, you can more easily piece together narratives and stories. By connecting related items and documents, you can create a comprehensive and coherent account of events, experiences, or family heritage. This becomes a valuable resource for sharing with family members, researchers, or the wider community if you desire.
Processing and Connecting Through Generations:
By documenting and preserving your stories, experiences, achievements, or challenges, you contribute to the understanding of your generational history. This not only fosters a sense of identity but also enables connections between different generations by allowing them to engage with the past. We don’t live in the past but processing it, learning from it, and healing past it can create a more enlightened future. Whether it’s the clutter in our minds or in our archives, organizing and clearing away what no longer serves us, enables us to cultivate a space where growth, understanding, and meaningful connections can thrive.
There is no greater joy then the discovery or rediscovery of your own family, military, or community history. It’s a process that you might stop and start over several years depending on your goals and time. We can jump into my 3-step process at any point or I can customize a plan for you. Learn more about my 3-step process below by downloading my services and pricing guide.
“Turning chaos into chronicles, and clutter into captivating narratives – that’s the artistry of a story organizer.” ~Unknown