When it comes to memory joggers, photos are king.
There’s nothing that brings our past to life better than visual reminders. Film and video also do this, but our best connections to our more distant past often come from photographs. Long ago, having a photo taken was a big deal. Equipment was large, heavy and cumbersome. Even the subjects found picture-taking to be something of an ordeal, having to hold still for relatively long periods of time.
But, as good as photos can be in triggering old memories, they can also be confounding. This is particularly true when you don’t recognize the people in the photos. For the purposes of your personal history, though, concentrate on those photos that evoke memories of events you wish to include in your project.
Sort through your collection and pull those photos which you want to use as memory joggers. If you’re planning on committing your history to print, note which photos you may want to include in the final printed document.
The first thing to do with each photo is to identify who’s in it, what they are doing and when and where they did it. Write as much as you can about the photo and add it at the appropriate spot in your timeline. Sorting through your memories associated with a photo may spark other memories. Make note of them, too, and add them to your timeline.
You’ll probably find this sort of domino effect happening often. You’ll find yourself thinking about events and people you haven’t thought about in a very long time. Go with it. Write about it. Share it.
Tomorrow: We’ll look at some of the places of your past.
This is Lesson No. 7 of a mini-course on how to write a personal history. The course will continue throughout May, which is Personal History Month. To get future lessons delivered to you, you may subscribe to our RSS feed or get e-mail delivery to your inbox. It’s easy. Details can be found in the column to the left of this post.