How to Preserve Your Life Story Digitally

A digital photo album is safe, shareable and searchable

Keeping a diary can be hugely rewarding. Daily journaling has been shown to improve sleep, memory and concentration while reducing stress. On top of all that, a diary keeps your memories organized,and allows you to easily look back on treasured moments you might otherwise forget.

There are a few problems with a shelf full of journals, though. First, paper diaries take up a lot of space, and they aren’t easy to transport. They can easily be lost during a house move, or damaged beyond repair by a leaky pipe. Plus, if you want to search through and find a specific memory, you’ll need a great deal of time and patience in order to find it!

These problems get even bigger when you factor in photo albums, home movies, and boxes of souvenirs. These memories are some of the most treasured things you have, but looking after them can be quite a trial.

Fortunately, modern technology can make this task a whole lot easier. Here’s how.

 

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Preserving Your Diaries

Diaries are vital sources of knowledge. Historians have learned a huge amount from studying the diaries and journals of people from bygone ages, and some of the world's most precious historical texts started out as personal diaries. When the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote his Meditations, for example, he probably never imagined that they might be published, nor that we’d still be learning from them 2,000 years later.

Of course, few paper diaries will survive for 2,000 years. Most will start to fall apart after just a few dozen. That’s why museums and libraries put so much time and energy into digitizing their collections — and why it’s a good idea for you to keep a digital diary, too.

In addition to being completely weightless, a digital diary can also be easily backed up. This means that your memories will be almost indestructible — even in the event of a catastrophe. Even better, a quick text search of your digital journal will take you directly to the memory you want to find, with no flicking back and forth or trying to decipher your old handwriting.

To keep a digital diary, we’d suggest something simple. A text document is perfect — especially if you use a service like Dropbox or Box to automatically back it up. It’s also possible to back up your existing paper diaries using these services, which you can do in much the same way as you might back up old photographs.

 

Preserving Your Photographs

Looking through old photo albums with friends or family is a wonderful way to reminisce, and digital photo collections don’t replace that tactile social experience. However, keeping your photos in the cloud keeps them safe and also means that you can share them with family all over the world.

(We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that digital photographs are also easy to share when you’re putting together a biography or memoir!)

The biggest advantage to digital photographs, however, is that they don’t ever age. A good, high-resolution image stored in the cloud will look great a hundred years from now, while a printed photograph might have become discolored or been damaged by sun, moisture or handling.

Digitizing printed photographs means scanning them, which can be a painstaking task. Doing just a few at a time helps make the process more manageable, or you can turn to a professional service to do all the technical work for you.

And once your photographs are digitized? You can then back them up just as you would your diary by storing them on a memory stick or in the cloud. Just like that your memories are protected, preserved and archived for decades to come.

 

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Audio and Video

While text is usually easy to preserve, audio and video are a bit trickier. That’s because the digital formats used for these media are always changing. Not so long ago, home movies were kept on VHS cassettes; now they’re much more likely to be on a CD, a memory stick or in the cloud. Who knows what format we’ll be using for video and audio in the future?

Old formats get more and more difficult to access as time goes by. Getting hold of a VHS player in the 1990s was a cinch, but it’s considerably more difficult in 2020!

There’s no need to panic if your most precious memories are stored on video cassettes, though. It’s still possible to transfer over media from one format to another. There are special services that focus on doing this (EachMoment is a good choice), and in some cases the converted footage will even be cleaner than the original.

 

Preserving Your Messages

Among the most fragile types of memory are digital messages. These have actually become more difficult to preserve as technology advances. The world still has access to the letters of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, but if these great thinkers had been using email to communicate, there’s a good chance we’d have missed out on many of their insights.

Companies are gradually waking up to the importance of preserving digital messages. Apps like WhatsApp allow you to back up and download your messages, and many popular email clients like Google Mail do the same.

Being able to check back through old messages might be just what is needed when it comes to filling in a gap in your memoirs, so taking the tie to preserve them is worthwhile.

 

In Conclusion

Your memories are precious. They bring you happiness, keep you healthy, and tell you who you are and how you’ve been shaped by your past. But they can’t do any of these things if they’re lost or inaccessible. That’s why it’s a great idea to digitize your memories — whether they’re old home movies, precious photographs, or a collection of diaries and letters. Keep them safe, and they’ll bring you joy for many years to come.

 

Having a digital archive makes writing your memoirs a breeze – especially if you let StoryTerrace do the heavy lifting for you.

We’ll take your memories, photographs, and anecdotes, and turn them into a beautiful bound book. Sound good? Get in touch to schedule a quick chat, or sign up for our newsletter for more information.

 

Written by Krishan Coupland
Image credits: by Plann, Dimitri Houtteman & Muhammad Haikal Sjukri

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