Barry Ewell will be one of the presenters at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, which is in less than 4 weeks. He will be presenting at 3 PM on the first day of the conference, February 10. Barry's presentation is entitled, Digitally Preserving Your Family Heritage. I have a strong interest in this topic, so this week I called Barry and talked with him at some length about his planned presentation.
Barry is an advertising and public relations executive who became interested in genealogy about ten years ago, following the death of his mother. At the time, Barry and his siblings divided up many of her belongings in the same manner that many families do after losing the last living parent. However, Barry soon found that some items were sentimental to more than one sibling, and yet there was no practical method of sharing. I think most of us can identify with that. Barry wondered if perhaps they could share electronic copies, if not physical possession. As he pondered this quandary, he realized that the same issues had surfaced years earlier for his parents, grandparents, and earlier generations. Each generation faces the questions of how to divide family heirlooms amongst the descendants of recently deceased family members. Barry got to thinking about how every family member could have every family record.
The answer seemed obvious to Barry: make digital copies of everything of interest, and share those copies with family members as well as preserve it for future generations, even those not yet born.
Barry started looking for content from his cousins, including second and third cousins. After several years of effort, he acquired close to 50,000 different pieces of content concerning his family members. Yes, that's FIFTY THOUSAND. The collection includes photographs, certificates, sound recordings, home movies, and a lot of other paper documents. Many of the items he acquired were very poor quality photocopies that needed digital improvements.
Barry told me he learned to use Nuance Naturally Speaking to transcribe documents. In many cases, making improvements to photocopies of old pieces of paper proved to be difficult; so, he would simply read each document out loud into a microphone attached to his computer and use the software to transcribe his dictation. This was especially effective when the photocopies were of handwritten notes rather than images of original documents.
Another skill he learned was to use a digital camera instead of a scanner. Libraries often didn't want him to scan fragile items, so he used his digital camera. Making images with a camera produces less handling and less potential damage to a fragile document than using a traditional computer scanner. He is now able to make 250 to 300 scans per hour with his camera.
He also has converted numerous audio cassettes and even 78 RPM records to digital audio files. For instance, he was perusing his mother's collection of 78 RPM records and wondered, "What did SHE listen to?" Now he and his siblings and any interested descendants can listen for themselves.
Finally, Barry told me that he will cover the preservation of all this material in order to make sure it is available to descendants 50, 100, or even 200 years from now. Using digital techniques available today, he expects this material to be easily available to others for many years after he is gone.
Another aspect of the same issue is to make sure that your digitization efforts remain in commonly-available formats so that others may step in and take over after you are gone. After all, spending hundreds of hours of loving labor will be wasted if the next generation cannot easily take over and continue your work. Barry will also discuss hardware: do you have the right video cards to digitize video? How much memory is required in your computer? How can you do all this in a cost-effective manner?
All in all, this sounds like an interesting presentation. I suspect almost all genealogists are interested in preserving family heritage information. Barry Ewell's presentation on Digitally Preserving Your Family Heritage should be a big help to all of us.
As Barry talked, I began to wonder, "How is he going to squeeze all this into a one hour presentation?" I finally asked him that exact question. Barry laughed and replied that there is no way he could cover all this in three or four hours, much less one. Instead, he plans to go over the highlights, complete with demonstrations of several examples, and then he expects to provide handouts of many, many pages that will give references for more detailed information about each and every topic presented. He does plan to wrap up within an hour but also expects interested attendees will then spend several more hours with his handouts after they return home.
In fact, for those who are unable to attend RootsTech in person, Barry has kindly offered to make his handouts and PowerPoint slides available after the conference to anyone who wishes them.
If you are unable to attend RootsTech but would like to receive Barry's PowerPoint slides and handouts, send an email after the conference to email@example.com with the word "rootstech" in the subject line. Barry will reply with a URL where you can download the information. Please do not write until after the conference is over, however. That will be on February 13 or later.
I hope to attend Barry Ewell's presentation on February 10 on Digitally Preserving Your Family Heritage. Even though I received an overview this week from Barry, I suspect his presentation will cover much, much more.