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Digitally preserving your family history for free

Digitally preserving your family history for free
© Dmitry Volochek | Dreamstime

Digitizing your old memories stored in analog formats like VHS tapes and film reels can be cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive. Not only that, doing it on your own typically requires spending for extra equipment that you may no longer need after your video archiving project is done.

Of course, there are third-party services like Costco, Walmart and Walgreen's that can do the job for a fee, but if you have tons of family memories on old VHS tapes, the costs can add up significantly.

Click here for three ways to modernize your old videotapes.

To help make video digital archiving more accessible to everyone, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture is now offering a free digitization program that provides African-American families access to the museum's conversion equipment and even specialists to assist in modernizing their analog media.

The Community Curation Program

The National Museum of African American History & Culture's Community Curation Program is a new project started by the Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center. Its main objective is to "bridge the generational divide in African American communities by bringing access to online services that support the digitization, preservation and sharing of stories by and for the community."

Participants can bring in their analog video media formats like VHS, Betamax, Hi-8, Mini-DV and film reels or analog audio sources like audio cassettes and vinyl to the Museum for digitization by their DigiTeam.

To get started, you will have to first send an email to the Museum at nmaahc-rfsfhc@si.edu to schedule an appointment.

Once converted, the media will be included in a searchable online database for quick access. Eventually, these digitized stories can be uploaded to the Museum's new online platform. (For now, the museum only digitizes audiovisual media like videotapes, audio recordings, and film reels.)

These digitized family memories can then be included in the Museum's Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center exhibit. From these free digital community offerings, the exhibit hopes that African Americans of all ages will be able to preserve the traditions of family and community organizations for current and future generations of Americans.

To learn more about the Museum's Community Curation Program, click here.

Speaking of digitizing old memories, if you want to digitize hundreds or even thousands of photos, then this might be your best bet. The Epson FastFoto High-Speed Photo Scanning System can scan thousands of photos at a rate of one photo per second (at 300 dpi), making it the fastest photo scanner in the world.

How to keep your old videos, music, and photos safe forever

Do you want more tips on how to preserve your old memories? Click here for various ways of digitizing your analog media.

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