SALT LAKE CITY — Censored pictures of dying books too graphic to
show and a powerpoint slide featuring thunder and lighting were among
the scare tactics used by Scott Simkins to help drive home the point of
his lecture Thursday, April 8, at the Family History Library:
"Take the time to preserve your precious histories and treasures before
it's too late."
Simkins, the head
conservator at the Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, addressed the "ings" of preserving personal histories,
as part of a lecture series sponsored by the
Church History Library called "Preserving Your Personal History."
Beware of impending
doom and destruction, Simkins joked with the 20 or so in attendance. He
titled his presentation "Fires, Floods, and Earthquakes: Ensuring that your personal journal will last through millennial destruction and beyond."
scare tactics will motivate you to action, to keep journals and precious
documents," said Simkins, one of the Mormon church's top authorities on
collection dynamics. "Hopefully the things you learn
here will inspire you to keep your personal histories so your loved
ones can enjoy them too."
__IMAGE1__Citing scriptures Jacob 1:2-3 and Doctrine and Covenants 136:27 , Simkins'
remarks centered around the "ings" of preserving: Handling, documenting,
organizing, preparing, mending, sharing and storing,
then discussed the purpose of each point.
Part of handling
histories requires understanding the anatomy of a book, Simkins said
before demonstrating how to carefully remove a book from the bookshelf
without causing damage.
Many are guilty of
pulling a book out by the top of the sleeve with their index finger.
Instead, try pushing the books on each side inward so the book is easier
to pull out, or if possible, reaching around and
tapping the book out from the opposite side. Simkins also suggested washing
your hands before fingering the pages of a book.
"Do not lick your
fingers," he said. "Clean your hands before hand to retain that tactile
When documenting and organizing your history, consider how to arrange
items so they aren't lost or misidentified.
"Your journal won't
make it into the hands of your descendants unless you help it into
their hands," Simkins said.
includes removing anything that will cause damage, such as extraneous
materials, dust and debris. If you run into mold, don't remove it,
Simkins said, place the book in a clear plastic bag.
Mending was one
point Simkins considered leaving out of his presentation because it
should be left to professionals. He showed examples of how Scotch
tape on a torn page cannot be repaired. He also recommended
finding a conservator at your local state university for help.
"If you do it,
don't do anything irreversible so someone can fix what you did later,"
If you have an
original document, Simkins recommended making copies — digital or
otherwise — and sharing the copies before letting everyone handle the
original. He noted that the LDS Church History Library
accepts journal donations.
"Share the original
cautiously. Maybe it's a good opportunity to explain the anatomy of a
book to the grandkids," he said. "Then tuck the original away where it
is safe and share copies."
Improper storage is
often where family treasures are lost. The ancient Egyptians knew how
to do it, Simkins said.
"What was the
secret? It was a box within a box within a box," he said. "If your
journal is in the middle of a couple of boxes, it will have a
microenvironment of its own, with less dust, gases and fumes."
keeping precious items out of the light, away from pipes, air-conditioning units,
radiators, exterior walls and extreme heat.
the key, he said, but avoid cardboard boxes or laminating documents
because those are not effective long-term methods.
"In the church
history center we are Anti-Nephi Laminites," Simkins said, sparking
conservator concluded his remarks with a call to action. As more and
more Mormons take interest in preserving family history, they are
thinking, "Wow, I wish this wasn't beaten up so
much. What could we have done to keep it around longer?" Simkins said.
"More and more I am
being asked to speak to groups who are thinking about what they need to
do to keep stuff around. We usually don't jump on it until its too
late, then conservation comes into play," Simkins
said. "I hope we can catch these things up front first."
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