Preserve First, Scan Second

This blog post stopped me in my tracks. I’m doing a huge scanning project right now. Drawers and drawers and more drawers of old paper files. All my genealogical correspondence and papers from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. A lifetime of work, and omg I was active. And now I’m helping Mom clean out her storage units (yes, units, plural). She’s giving me boxes of stuff, some of it originals of copies she has given me, some of it copies I’ve given her, and some of it stuff I’ve never seen before.

So, you can imagine I was in no mood to hear someone say I should stop scanning, that I should, apparently, backtrack and start preserving. Might be good advice for someone, but not for me.

Then I took a few days to think. Maybe I’ve being over-reactive. INFJ. You have to know I’d be over-reactive to anything that challenges my organizational process.

On reflection, preservation first makes a lot of sense. You don’t have to fix all the problems, but at least get it organized, do some triage, and get it put in archival boxes. I have mine neatly organized into file folders, staples and paper clips mostly pulled, crumbling papers photocopied. So, I’ve already done most of what Denise recommends as the first step. The way I see it, I’m good to continue with the scanning.

I don’t have it all in archival boxes, and I’m not actually sure I want to do that. I have a bunch of lateral files, and a largish closet we call “the file room”. I use those for the papers. Then I have the photos in bankers boxes. I fret about those boxes. If I died right now, today, the lateral files would stay where they are are for 20 years, but the boxes would go to my sister, who would likely stash them in storage for lack of space.

My sense is that climate control is an important element here, as well as keeping a clear vision about what is practical and what is probable. I could put everything in archival boxes now, but my sense is doing that would increase the risk of eventual destruction.

Today’s thoughts aren’t my last word on the subject. Now that I’ve read about the problem, I’ll be thinking about it every morning when I go into the file room to grab today’s scanning project. And I might eventually change course. Just not today.

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