Personal archives. What to keep?

We all  keep personal archives. It could be photographs or films depicting members of our family and friends, drawings made by our children, memories from trips, or official documents. They all bear witness to moments of our lives, our memory and, in some cases, they constitute evidence in support of our rights.

Archives can be separated into two broad categories:

  • those that you must keep
  • those you choose to keepArchives personnelles - Personal archives

Both categories can serve a dual function.

Archives that you must keep

These are typically archives which are essential and of current use. They also serve as evidence.

Archive type : legal and commercial

Document Types : rent, mortgage receipt, various contracts, various bills (renovation, repair, utilities, personal property, professional services, etc.), guarantees, insurance, tax returns, banking, loans, book health, will, court settlements.

It is recommended to keep these types of documents in order to abide to certain laws, in case you need to exercise your rights, or as proof of ownership. Some documents may be discarded as soon as they are accrued, as in the case of a guarantee, while others such as health records, must be kept permanently.  For more detailed information, see the Web pages of BanQ and Revenue Canada.

Archives you choose to keep

These are archives that can perform multiple functions.

Archive type : legal and commercial, but that are past their usefulness, as well as those with sentimental and patrimonial value.

Document Types : maps, school reports, old passports, letters, agendas, audio (CD, various cassettes) and audiovisual material (films, DVDs), diaries, photographs, postcards.

Artifacts: various collections, clothes, posters, books, etc.

Assess the usefulness and relevance of each archive. You do not keep everything. The slip of paper containing a grocery list does not have the same value as a love letter from your grandmother to your grandfather. For similar documents such as phone bills, keep one or two specimen that are representative.

Select the archives you want to keep and remove duplicates. With digital technologies, it is very easy to keep hundreds of photos with a repeated version of the same landscape or building. Keep the best one and get rid of the others and do not forget to enter a description. This also applies to many other documents. Keep only what is meaningful to you.

Evaluate the costs associated with preservation :

  • cost in time: selection, organization and indexing can take hours and in many cases, several days.
  • cost in money: good preservation includes a material suitable for this kind of activity and is therefore a bit more expensive than what we find in the big box stores.
  • cost in space: as we know, documents and collections accumulate and take up space.

If you decide to keep archives for their sentimental or patrimonial quality, there are many ways to preserve, highlight and transmit them. These topics will be addressed in other newsletters, or you can contact us at any time. We will offer you solutions tailored to your needs and your budgets.

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Lucie Bettez holds a Master Degree in History from Université du Québec à Montréal. Her fields of specialization include: women’s history, industrial heritage, the military from the social and cultural points of view and education. The historical period range from around 1850 to the Quiet Revolution and the territory covers Quebec and Canada. Ms. Bettez is presently the commissioner for the exhibit MOCO : The fabric of a city at the MUSO in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Qc.

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