As part of a consumer and environmentalist culture, Americans are encouraged to both acquire lots of things and keep them so as not to be wasteful. When it comes to the point of downsizing, it can be difficult to know what is important to save, particularly from the perspective of saving your and your family’s history.
Do you need to keep the teacup your great-aunt gave you? What about the bill of sale from your grandparents’ farm house? How about the past 50 years’ worth of your parents’ federal tax returns?
Museums deal with personal possessions all the time. Artifacts are offered to museum collections for a number of reasons:
- The person giving an artifact understands the historical importance of the item and wants to make sure it is preserved and available for public study.
- The person giving an artifact thinks it might be important but isn’t quite sure how it fits into the area’s history.
- The person giving an artifact thinks it’s too good to throw away and wants to give it to a museum to assuage a sense of guilt.
- The person is offering an artifact from a family member and wants to honor that family member by giving it to a museum because they have no one else to pass it along to.
All of these are perfectly valid reasons to offer items to a museum, however, museums have a finite amount of space and can’t take everything that is offered. That means you’ll have to make some hard decisions about what to save for posterity (just like museums do!) to pass along to your family and friends. And you don’t want to hand it off all higgledy-piggledy so that those who come after you have no sense of why these items are important.
The Morrison County Historical Society is here to help. We have published a guide that shows you how to decide what personal possessions to save and how to save them so that your legacy can be preserved through these select artifacts.
The guide, called “Sorting for History: Leaving a Legacy Through Your Possessions,” is available online for download. It is also available in print version through our online gift shop and at The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum in Little Falls, Minnesota.
If you have questions about how to preserve your personal artifacts, give us a call at 320-632-4007.