How to Collect and Record Memories

Turning the meaningless into the meaningful 
Create an amazing resource full of memories

We record memories and keep mementos, often without realizing, on a daily basis. We know the stories behind the photos and trinkets we keep, but to a stranger, our collection is meaningless. 

For example, you may pick up a photo of yourself with friends, sitting around a table. You look fondly at the picture, chuckling, remembering all the events that occurred that night. But, let’s say your great-granddaughter picks up this same photo 40 years from now. What would she see?

Now imagine this same photo, but with the caption: ‘The gang, aged 25, the night Dan proposed to Jen’. Not only will your great-granddaughter laugh at what you’re all wearing, she now has context behind the image. Having a simple record of who people are and your relationship to them can turn something meaningless into something meaningful for those around you.

Collecting Memories

So what exactly should you be collecting? Well, we’ve comprised a list of useful items that will trigger your memories when recounting your stories.

Photographs and Films

photographs for collecting and recording memories

Photographs and films are probably the most obvious visual cues for recalling memories. A photograph directly shows what someone or something looked like. However, this doesn't mean the picture alone conveys the whole story, or how you experienced it.

Especially in this day and age, images can be construed to convey a certain message. Therefore, relying on photographs alone to remember people and events might not be completely reliable.

Rachel LaCour Niesen, keen photograph preservationist gives us an insight into why she is so passionate about photography, as well as ideas on how to display photographs:

"There’s magic in holding printed photos in your hands, in passing them around the table. That's because analog photos trigger powerful emotional responses. Most families have hundreds of analog photos in their homes. These photos hold valuable family memories; they are passports to a place called memory. We must make an effort to rescue them from deterioration and loss. When analog photos are in danger, family history is also in danger.

“Indeed, photographs are a living, breathing archive. They are meant to be displayed and shared. Whether they're displayed in frames, in an old-school slideshow, or in albums, I hope all families recognise the value of their personal photographic histories. Can you imagine never having the magical experience of discovering a box of family photos? It’s like finding buried treasure! I would love to guarantee that experiences like that aren’t lost in the future.”

For more ideas and advice on how to preserve old photographs visit Rachel’s site:

Diaries and Letters

diaries for collecting and recording memories

Diaries and letters serve as powerfully written cues for recalling memories. Letters can reveal a great many things, from sharing big news to revealing secret love affairs. Meanwhile, diaries are a personal way of recording your thoughts and feelings whilst they're still fresh, as it is often harder to remember details in hindsight.

In an interview conducted by the National Diary Archives, specialist diary collector, Sally Macnamara, gives us an insight into why this became her passion:

“The most important thing I would say is that real life is so much more exciting and rewarding to read about than any story anyone could make up. And that no matter who you are, every life, every true story, has fascinating aspects to it, and that we all have a story to tell. So many people think they have nothing to share, nothing to teach, nothing that’s worthwhile in their life, but that is so untrue.”

For more inspiration on collecting diaries and to follow some truly amazing diary stories visit Sally’s Diaries.

Newspaper Clippings

newspaper clippings for collecting and recording memories

Saving newspaper and magazine clippings of significant stories is another great way to preserve memories. Many of us rely on cues to jog our memories. Therefore, keeping a record of important news stories is a great way to remind us what we were doing at the time of the event or at the point of reading the story.

Additionally, keep meaningful magazine clippings and display them in a frame or in a book. Preserving clippings in this way can also be a great way of presenting an album of events that occurred throughout your life, quickly and with little effort.


mementoes for collecting and recording memories

The beauty of collecting mementos is that every collection, and every item in that collection, is unique. Keeping a box of objects you’ve collected over the years serves as a treasure trove for your grandchildren. You'll probably feel nostalgic, too.

The objects do not need to be valuable or even attractive. It’s all about keeping items that will remind you of a special time. Keeping a ticket stub may be all you need to remember one of the best weekends of your life.

The box itself could also be something significant. Just as all the objects inside are specific and special to you, so the container could be too. Some people may keep their trinkets in their favorite cookie box. Others may appropriate an old shoe box and collage it with stamps they’ve collected.

So, what are you waiting for?

There is no specific time to start recording your memories. However, the sooner you start, the more memories you'll preserve and the more you'll have to share with future generations. It’ll also make the process of writing your own life story or having a ghostwriter to do the writing for you much simpler when you come to it.

Written by Amber Hicks

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