But, I need my physics notes from 1995!
September 25, 2012 3:37 AM   Subscribe

I have about 3 smallish boxes of old school things from high school through university. I'd like to get rid of some of it, and keep the rest in some kind of (inexpensive) way that is compact and more or less won't fall apart. Do other people do this? (scrapbooks? photo albums? ruthless scanning?) How?

The Things I have are agendas, a few journals, class projects, 2-3 binders full of class notes, old ID cards, pictures, yearbooks, letters from my ex, awards...

Most of this stuff (like chemistry notes) I can get rid of, but I really enjoy looking through my agendas from elementary school or my journals every year or two, or looking at the daily newsletters from my university. I also really like having the old ID cards. Obviously this isn't often enough to justify devoting lots of space to it, but I'd like to... do something? I'm considering scanning some of the things that I'd like to have, but don't really look at, so that I can throw them out. I mostly value having pictures or things that I've written that reflect my viewpoint at that time of life, since I don't have a very good memory.

My ex-girlfriend once gave me for my birthday a collage of a bunch of things (movie tickets, pictures, flyers...) that we did during our first year together, and that's exactly the kind of thing I'd like to make, except that it took up a lot of space.

I'd really like to organize some of the things (ID cards, pictures) in a more sane way than a pile, and don't know what to do with medals I got in elementary school.
posted by oranger to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
take photographs! and put those in a scrapbook or in a box of pictures or if you really want to minimize space, keep digital copies in a computer file.

this is what i did with all sorts of paraphernalia driving me crazy- medals, t-shirts from group events/projects, whatever. makes life SO much better.
posted by saraindc at 4:18 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a little wary of the current fad toward digitization of memorabilia: unless you are pretty methodical in making sure you have a backup system in place and periodically review your collection for format/media obsolescence, there is a good chance that 10-20 years from now your digital collections will be inaccessible. For me, at least, the mental burden of maintaining such a system would be more "clutter" than it is to keep a few boxes of carefully curated physical memorabilia.

I composed my first school assignment on computer in 1982, and I turned in my PhD dissertation in 2001, and not a single piece of work from all that time is now accessible to me in digital format except the last, and that's only accessible only because its digital life is being maintained by someone else. Fortunately, I have hard copies of much of my "meaningful" output from those years.

Standard-issue cardboard boxes are actually quite durable if stored in a dry place. My mom has boxes that have been in service for at least 50 years and that have been moved around multiple times. If you want to get a little more organized beyond just having everything in a cardboard box, you can sort things into smaller boxes by type--manuscript boxes or expanding file pockets for papers, and some smaller lidded photo boxes for photographs and smaller objects like ID cards and medals. If you get nice basic black fiberboard boxes they can be stored in plain sight with any decor scheme.

Photo albums are the next step up if you have more time, but in my experience they take up much more space than the same amount of photos in a photo box and are often awkwardly sized w/r/t standard bookshelf dimensions.
posted by drlith at 5:30 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The interesting bits, if digitised, will likely be discarded by the next generation. But if you had your great-grandmother's old school awards from another time and place, they'd probably be interesting things to see and feel and show to friends. Maybe to donate to a local historical society, small-town museum...

Turning artifacts into photos or whatever is very close to throwing them away. Pare it down, sure, but I don't think there's a good way to do what you want to do, especially given the issues already covered by drlith.
posted by kmennie at 6:00 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Physical memorabilia is where it's at. Digital formats become obsolete very fast, and then you're stuck constantly trying to update your storage methods. Whereas, if you just have a carefully curated collection of tangible things, you can store and not think about them for decades, and they will be accessible by future generations with no hassle.

Depending on the flatness of the things you want to keep, I can see a few different options. If everything will pile neatly, you can just store it in a couple of manila file folders. You can find boxes specifically sized to hold them flat, so thicker things like medals don't slip around. If you actually have a file cabinet, just reserve a part of one for this. Just make sure that you're keeping your folders inside somewhere dark and dry, and label everything neatly. If you want to be extra nice to your future self, organize chronologically, and for the smaller items that span multiple years, you can get clear page-protectors so they don't sift to the bottom of things.

You could also get a big 3-ring binder, and put everything inside page-protectors, and store it that way. For heavier items like medals, you can find pouches meant for pen & pencil storage that have reinforced holes on the side to put inside a binder - a couple of those could likely hold your medals while the binder is stored upright.

If you have more objects than just flat things, a couple of photo boxes is probably good. You can find them all over the place, they're smaller cardboard boxes with lids and usually have a little area on the front for a label. If you're okay with the papers being folded to fit in the photo box, you can use card dividers to organize things by year or type, and reserve a chunk of the box for your non-flat objects.

Just be sure to label things, store it in a dark dry place, and if you want to get really fancy you could make high-contrast, blown-up photocopies of some of the more interesting or hard to read items, like newspaper clippings or favorite hand-written notes.
posted by Mizu at 6:03 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Andy Warhol kept his archives in shoe boxes.

I recommend that you get some attractive shoe box-sized boxes (they used to keep VHS tapes) and then group your object-items accordingly. Easy to access, easy to move.

Your paper items can be put in 3-ring binder plastic sleves and put into pretty binders.

Paper will degrade over time, it will yellow and become brittle. Also, think about what you'd like done with these things once you're gone. Do you care?

Once you've got everything the way you want it, scan it and upload to the cloud, so if, heaven forbid, you lose your actual stuff, at least it's in ones and zeros out there.

There may be some things that are just interesting to you as records (the notes, agendas, etc.) Me, I wouldn't preserve them physically, but I would keep them digitally to revisit in the future. Some things are neat as they are, and I might keep them in an archive. But most are just neat in themselves and I'd only want them around to read and re-read.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:20 AM on September 25, 2012

Similar to Mizu's suggestion about binders and page protectors, I use a Poly Business Card Book to store old school & work ID's, though I use the one that is large enough to store three cards in a row.

To store all of the binders, folders and other paperwork, I put them in clamshell portfolio boxes and cardboard clamshell boxes (I get mine free from a woodworking shop, might be worth asking around at some in your area).
posted by mlis at 7:30 AM on September 25, 2012

You could just buy a binder of the right size and some acid free plastic pockets to put the things in. You can get ones with sorts of sized pockets to hold tickets or small things. Simply fill the pockets and put them in the binder. Decorate the binder as required, though scrapbooking shops sell some nice ones though they are more expensive than the old stationery store ones. You want acid free archival style pockets though as cheap ones from stationery stores can cause damage to paper based items. Check out the scrapbooking section of any major craft store they will have all sorts of options.

If you get really into it you can always make smaller collages onto scrapbooking paper with scrapping tape and keep them in the pockets and don't forget to include a little bit of journaling/info about the item to help remind you in years to come.
posted by wwax at 8:22 AM on September 25, 2012

I've used shadow box frames to display this kind of stuff. It works great, and you get the same effect as the collage you mentioned. Some of them open from the front, so you could remove your journals when you wanted to read them. You would need to pare down the paper, but you could line the back of the frame with different pages for a nice background.
posted by raisingsand at 1:10 PM on September 25, 2012

I scanned play programs and the like, posted them to a Tumblr blog. My school friends really, really appreciated that, and were amazed I still had those items.

I didn't toss anything out, just made it available to those who remember those times.
posted by trinity8-director at 8:28 PM on September 25, 2012

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