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Centre County Library's Memory Lab to Help Preserve Outdated Media

by on January 02, 2018 5:00 AM

By Julie Valora

BELLEFONTE — Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” As the year winds down, and we begin to make our New Year’s resolutions, it is important to keep this in mind. It is only natural that we talk about getting fit, reading more, quitting smoking or any other soon-forgotten resolution. Though we may be working toward a “brand new self,” it’s vital to preserve the past as well. There is much we can learn if we take a look back through even our own family history. 

Recently, my mother began the project of cleaning out her attic. While not quite a New Year’s resolution, it is a large task nonetheless. I happen to come from a long line of “savers.” As you can probably imagine, the job of clearing out a space that stores at least three generations’ worth of belongings has not been easy.

It’s been a treat for me to see some of the treasures coming down the attic stairs. While many of the items are being boxed up for a future yard sale, there are many items that my mother just can’t part with. My grandmother’s diary is a great example. Picture the joy she experienced reading through the pages.

It was a great way to reconnect with her mother, who has been gone for many years. Tin types, slides and negatives also are spread out throughout boxes in the attic (though this is probably not the best preservation tactic). Faces from the past, sights from long ago vacations and wedding portraits have littered the living room for the past few weeks.

There are some photos so old that my mother has no idea who they are or where they have come from. An avid genealogist, she has spent countless hours trying to identify the relics. She has also spent time sharing her findings on Facebook. It’s been fun strolling down memory lane, but the problem of what to do with all the “stuff” remains.

While it may not be feasible to save everything that is stored away, it’s comforting to know that some of these pieces can be preserved for future generations. The Pennsylvania Room, part of the Centre County Library and Historical Museum in Bellefonte, has recently launched a Memory Lab. The goal is to convert old tapes, cassettes, floppy discs, slides and negatives into modern formats.  

While it’s been possible for a while to do this, it hasn’t always been a cheap and easy option for most. Companies such as Legacy charge upwards of $75. By making an appointment at the Pennsylvania Room, it is now possible to undertake this project virtually free of charge.

What is the cost to you? Nothing more than a storage device — a DVD, flash drive or external hard drive. You also can gain peace of mind, knowing your precious memories need not be mailed away. You are involved in the project from start to finish.

Preserving these treasures now ensures that not only the families of today but those in the future can get a better idea of the lives lead by their parents and grandparents. It can provide a connection between generations that might not otherwise have a chance to bond.

For more information, or to make an appointment, contact the Pennsylvania Room at (814) 355-1516, extension 214, or visit www.centrecountylibrary.org/memory-lab.

Julie Valora is communications coordinator and outreach assistant at Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

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