Four years ago, Lucie Arnaz, (the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz), decided to tell her parents’ story in a most unique way. After her parents’ death, Lucie became the curator of an enormous collection of family memorabilia, including photographs, handwritten notes, telegraphs, letters and home movies. Lucie had even discovered a set of audiocassette tapes, stored away in a shoebox, that her mother, Lucille, had made, recording her life story.
Lucie was overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility and felt compelled to go beyond simply preserving the memorabilia; she wanted to document and preserve the stories that gave context and meaning to the collection. The result of her efforts, Lucy and Desi: The Scrapbooks, is an interactive multimedia scrapbook whose pages come to life on the computer screen with music, narrated photo collages and video interviews with friends and family.
“Today a growing number of people are making it a priority to compile and preserve their own family’s story,” observes Jeff Davis, project manager for the Lucy and Desi project and managing partner of Rimrock Interactive Media, a Salt Lake City-based firm that specializes in custom interactive media programs. “Although a production of this scale is beyond the capabilities and budget of most, the concepts and methods used in the production can be used by anyone with the desire and access to a few modern gadgets. Whether you choose to use a computer or not, time spent preserving your family stories is time well spent and will be treasured by generations to come.”
How Do I Do It?
- Take the time to research and gather your family stories. Modern technology makes this easy. Invest in a video camera and a tripod, compile a list of questions designed to stimulate memories and videotape interviews of family members and friends. Start with the oldest members of the family and work your way down.
- Catalog your photographs, documents and other memorabilia. A computer can come in handy. Computer-based catalogs (or databases) can be easily searched, sorted and filtered, making access to information quick and easy. Most computers come equipped with database or spreadsheet software that can be used for this purpose.
- Write down family stories and connect them with memorabilia that will support and add meaning to them. Record the connection on the database you’ve created.
- When possible, scan documents and photographs. Inexpensive image scanners can be found at any computer outlet. Read the scanner manual carefully; using the proper settings can make the difference between preserving your collection forever and simply wasting a lot of disk drive space.
- Archive your scanned images on CD-ROM. This creates a backup of your images in case your computer disk drive crashes; it’s an inexpensive way to store the large files that result from high-quality color scans, and it’s a great way to share your work with family and friends. Inexpensive CD-ROM recorders (called CD-R drives) can be purchased at any computer outlet. [EDIT: Today, you would want to have your images and video stored or backed up to the cloud using a service such as Dropbox, etc.)
- Once you’ve taken these steps, you can go even further. Perhaps you’ll want to record audio versions of your stories into the computer or even edit video clips onto the computer to correspond with your records.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Pioneer Magazine.