Week 7: A Tale of Two Couples

People say they don’t do a good job of curating their digital files because they can’t identify what will be important for the future (Bruce, 2005). This is an understandable dilemma, but we know from processing collections filled with photos, journal entries, and memorabilia of important life events that individuals recognize some objects are worth saving .

Wedding party of Jacqueline and Aaron Jackson, 1976. Courtesy of DC Public Library Special Collections.

Wedding party of Jacqueline and Aaron Jackson, 1976. Courtesy of DC Public Library Special Collections.

But what’s happening now that these life events are captured in large part digitally ? Are they saved with the same care? Will we continue to have personal collections documenting meaningful events?

I decided to email two married couples that are friends of mine and ask them a series of questions about how they’ve taken care of their wedding mementos since the big day.

email.snapshot.weddingblog

 

Here’s what they had to say

dd

Briefly summarize your wedding. When was it? Where was it? How many people attended?

Our wedding was June 14 2014 in Monterrey, NL Mexico, my hometown. We had about 150 friends and family attend the wedding.

How was the wedding day recorded? Did guests take photos or video? Did you have a professional photographer? Did you have a guestbook? A website? Invitations?

We hired a photographer to document our wedding, also a couple of my friends are photographers and one of them took informal pictures of us before and at the house while we where getting ready and another one took really good pictures at the party.  One of them sent the files by dropbox to us and the other one created an album online and gave us the link to it. The hired photographer and videographer gave us a DVD with all the files on it.  We made copies and sent them to family members. I honestly haven’t seen those or the video….  I should probably copy those files on an external drive and on the cloud!

How many of those physical or digital mementos do you have today? How do you use them? Where do you keep them?

I have all those files on DVD and on my computer. I back up my computer every other month so I know I have a copy on an external drive too. The photos that the hired photographer took are on a DVD. I just have those on the book shelf.  Dom printed some photos to make an album for his grandmother. 

What are your plans for the future of these objects?

I honestly don’t have plans for them except keep so I can look at them when I am old. Who knows, maybe later I will make a documentary about myself and need them! :b

For physical mementos: On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being supremely confident, how would you rate your ability to keep these objects for the rest of your life?

4,  I think with physical things I am better at keeping them. I still have photos of my childhood, the only concern is for them to suffer some physical damage and I am not very careful about humidity and dust, for example.

On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being extremely concerned, how much do you care that these objects are kept for the rest of your life?

Right now my emotional reaction to this question is : more or less, like a 3, but “intellectually” I know that if I don’t do anything to keep those I will regret it so badly later in life, so a 4.5

For digital mementos: On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being supremely confident, how would you rate your ability to keep these objects for the rest of your life?

I will say 3.5, because although I know I am totally capable of keeping files I also know that I need to be diligent about that and keep storing them in new hard drives or any new technology that comes and I am not sure I will actually be very diligent about that.. I guess the safest thing is to publish them somewhere on the internet?

On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being extremely concerned, how much do you care that these objects are kept for the rest of your life?

I am very concerned about that. Right now I am not too worried because it just happened, but I know that if I lose those memories I will be miserable in the future.

Is there anything else that you’d like to say about this topic?

I just want to thank you for making me thinking about this I will definitively look into some ways to copy and preserve those DVD and files!

gm

Briefly summarize your wedding. When was it? Where was it? How many people attended?

Morgan and I were married October 25, 2008 under a tent in the backyard of a family member’s house overlooking Urbanna Creek. We had around 200 guests and, in spite of the rain, it was lovely!

How was the wedding day recorded? Did guests take photos or video? Did you have a professional photographer? Did you have a guestbook? A website? Invitations?

We didn’t have a videographer. Some people may have captured video, but if they did, we haven’t received a copy of it. A number of our friends and family members took photographs. One sent us all the photos he took on CDs, which were amazing. We did pay a talented friend of ours to capture all the important moments – cutting the cake, first dance, etc. (although she doesn’t identify herself as a photographer by trade). Her pictures were very good, and we had them printed for a wedding album. We had a guestbook that people signed as they came in, and we also had people leave us a note on the matte of a picture frame (which, at this time, is stored somewhere — maybe the attic). We may have had a website, but I don’t remember. If we did, it was just a simple one through one of those sites like theknot.com for purposes of providing driving directions/hotel info to out of town guests. We had invitations – I still have one of them in a shoebox.

How many of those physical or digital mementos do you have today? How do you use them? Where do you keep them?

We have all the photos, the guest book and the matte/picture frame. The photos are stored both digitally (on Gretchen’s computer) and in a physical album, which is kept under the coffee table. The guest book is in a shoe box on the top shelf in our bedroom. I don’t know where the matte/picture frame is, exactly. Possibly the attic. What I enjoy more than those things are the cards people gave us, which are in the same shoe box.

What are your plans for the future of these objects?

No plans, per se. We just enjoy looking back at them from time to time, and it’ll be nice to be able to share them with our daughter in the future.

For physical mementos: On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being supremely confident, how would you rate your ability to keep these objects for the rest of your life?

4

On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being extremely concerned, how much do you care that these objects are kept for the rest of your life?

4

For digital mementos: On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being supremely confident, how would you rate your ability to keep these objects for the rest of your life?

3  (my computer crashing is always a concern, which is why we printed them out)  

On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being extremely concerned, how much do you care that these objects are kept for the rest of your life?

4

Thoughts

Both couples identified that a large portion of mementos from their wedding are in digital form as photos, videos, and a wedding website. I was surprised that social media, texts, emails, and/or voice mails related to the event were not considered (is it because it’s assumed they can’t be captured, or are they just too insignificant?).

At the wedding, photos and video were created by designated photographers and extemporaneously by guests. These files were processed by creators before they ended up in the wedders’ hands-  through online web albums, or organized on cloud storage, DVDs, and/or CDs. Wedding pictures published online directly by guests were not considered a part of their collections.

Both couples consolidated their files onto a personal computer, and both couples also chose to print pictures for accessibility (either for themselves or for someone else). They have kept files on various storage containers, but all containers are kept centrally in the home. In the event of a massive data loss, both couples could go back to content creators and request replacement copies of some of the material (Dom and Daniela could easily request copies of the DVDs they dispersed after the wedding, for example). Saving copies of high-value files on cloud storage or at a separate residence would best ensure their preservation.

If I could do it again, I would want to know more information about the files themselves- how did they name them? Did they tag people in them or add captions? What kinds of file types do they have? Knowing and adding this information will help them locate the files, help others understand their context, and make migration to newer formats a lot easier in the future (if any of you are reading this feel free to comment, of course!).

Overall they were more confident about archiving their physical mementos than their digital, but the difference was only .5- 1 point on a 5-point scale.

As far as wondering if anything will be left for us to archive, these case studies suggest we shouldn’t worry about it too much. Although more could be done, both couples have taken actions to preserve their wedding memorabilia in ways that work for them now and in how they want to use the files in the future (G&M want physical photos to share with their child, Daniela wants digital images and video for a future documentary). If anything, the amount of what’s getting captured is growing.  In 2008, Gretchen and Morgan received a CD of photos from a friend and those taken by their photographer. In 2014, with 50 fewer guests in attendance, Dom and Daniela received a web album, a dropbox link to photos, and a DVD of photos and video. Having a lot increases the chances that an item will be saved, but  it  does get harder and harder to care for it all.

What have you done?

All you happily wedded out there, please tell me what you’ve been doing with the digital evidence of your wedding. Do you see yourself in these case studies? Have you done something completely different?

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