How to display my parents history?
August 25, 2007 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Want to display some items from my parent's past. What is the best way?

My parents came to Canada after WW2. The war left Germany in disarray, so I never really learned much about their families, and I have virtually no extended family. Now that they are passed on, I have been trying to come to terms with my background, and their respective histories - I am also trying to do a family tree, but that is a little beyond my time right now.

I have come across the small bits of paper that they collected; their first house payment receipt ($70 dollars paid on a $4000 house), my father's Zeemans Buch (sailors log book - like a passport), pictures of course, and similar detritus like my grandparents marriage certificate and citizenship papers. Its a daunting, melancholy task in many ways, with all the emotions encompassed. Who were these people? What were they like? Would we get along today?

But the question is; how does a person display this varying media? Framed together? Framed separately but arranged? In a glass shelfed cabinet? Plasticized? Maybe videoed? I have the artistic skills of a squirrel, so simpler is better.

My kids, guests to the house, and friends would see this. Bonus points if the display can be passed on to my kids.

Thanks for suggestions in advance.
posted by fox_terrier_guy to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Have you thought of a display table? The items would be viewable, yet easily accessible.

I am not affiliated with this site in any way
posted by JujuB at 7:48 AM on August 25, 2007

I'm not sure what you mean by the term "plasticized" but a rule of thumb among conservationists/archivists is never to do anything that can't be undone. When I read "plasticized" I thought "laminated" which violates the 'can't be undone' rule. There are archival methods to enclose documents within acid free mylar without sealing them in forever. I was fortunate to train under an archivist who used this method to preserve a fragile document of my grandfather's.

For items that aren't single sheets of paper (which you may want to frame behind glass that shields UV light to protect them from possible damage from sunlight), try looking for "shadow boxes" or frame structures that have depth to them ... although I do like JujuB's idea of a display table for items like this.
posted by kuppajava at 8:02 AM on August 25, 2007

Thank you JuJuB. Didn't even know a display table existed! This goes back to my squirrel/art/skill comment.

Kuppajava, my plasticizing comment was kinda off the cuff. However, I appreciate your comments and have not thought of the UV component for degradation.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 8:11 AM on August 25, 2007

Don't display them or eventually they'll fade. Put them in a book that can be dragged out and opened as needed but put safely away the rest of the time. When the house burns down, you'll be able to grab it and run.

And photograph everything page by page so you can email them to interested family members -- are there any other genealogists in the family? -- and make good copies of photos you can store somewhere else (with kids?) so you'll have backups in case you really do have a fire or flood.
posted by pracowity at 8:19 AM on August 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Getting a consultation from a museum professional or conservator may be helpful. The Canadian Conservation Institute is world-famous for their artifact conservation research and publications. Their website is pretty dense and museum-focused, but it has a lot of good information and may help you find a conservator you can consult with.
posted by doift at 8:23 AM on August 25, 2007

Scan everything. Then you will have high quality images that you can share with family. You can also print those and use them in more "artistic" endeavors without worrying about their safety.
posted by kimdog at 8:24 AM on August 25, 2007

I like the book idea. There are entire stores where you can buy scrapbooking stuff. Avoid the cutesy sayings and stickers, but these places are great one-stop resources for archival materials and ideas (they often have both supervised scrapbooking sessions and actual instruction).
posted by nax at 12:48 PM on August 25, 2007

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