Organizing Photos and Documents for the LifeStory

You’ve gone through the first steps in preparing for the LifeStory interview. You’ve determined your “why”, had your Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ) meeting and filled out the PIQ form. Now it’s time to gather photos and documents for the LifeStory. While this might seem like an overwhelming task, it’s easier than you think. Here are a few helpful hints:

Helpful Hint #1 – Specify the Categories of Photos and Quantity for Each Category – Without specifying the categories of photos and quantity of each you want to include, you could be inundated by the garage-full of boxes containing decades of photos. By “categories of photos” I mean the specific groups you want to include. For instance, the category of “family” should be broken down into grandparents, parents, siblings, children, etc. Then be sure to specify the maximum number of photos for each category. For large families, you might need to ask for only group photos of the family at different decades of history instead of photos of each individual person. In the category of “military service” you might just want one photo taken at or near induction, and one at each location stationed or each assignment of duties.

Helpful Hint #2 – Ask for Only Documents That Tie to the PIQ Info Gathered – If the interviewee mentioned that their name was changed from the original birth certificate (or another unique story involving the certificate), I’ll include a copy of the certificate. Otherwise, I do not include birth certificates. Certainly marriage certificates are included, but the marriage license and other documents are not. Don’t forget to ask for love letters and other correspondence that will evoke heart-felt emotion. The first Mother’s Day or holiday cards written by children are a nice touch. Certificates of awards, rewards or accolades could be included, but be careful to limit these or, otherwise, they could get out of hand! Asking for only those documents and photos that tie to the PIQ information will narrow the selection by a large amount.

Helpful Hint #3 – Labeling the Photos and Documents – If you are doing a LifeStory on a family member, you might assume you can identify all the people in the photos you’ve gathered…but don’t! To be accurate with this step of the LifeStory process, bring a few pads of Post-It notes when gathering the actual photos. Write specifically who is in the photo and where they appear in the photo on the note and stick it to the back of the photo. NEVER write directly onto the back of a photo! I’ve seen priceless photos permanently ruined by pens and, God forbid, permanent ink bleeding through from careless inscription made on the back. The proper identification of people in each photo is essential to making the editing process of the LifeStory video smooth and easy. You would hate to have, after the project is finished, a relative to claim, “That’s not Uncle Moe, that’s Uncle Curly!”

Helpful Hint #4 – Scanning the Photos and Documents – While technology has made it easier and more affordable to scan your own photos and documents, it can be very time-consuming. I suggest hiring a professional to do this for you. While most major metropolitan areas have professionals who specialize in this, I recommend Kim Nixon at Picture This! . She is professional and reasonable with the pricing of her work. Although she is here in Austin, Texas, she handles projects shipped to her from across the nation.

In my next blog post, we’ll cover doing the research and formulating the questions for the LifeStory interview.