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7 ways to preserve your church history

Your church archives may be filled with priceless historical documents and photos but preserving them for future generations is a serious challenge. Journey offers seven tips for ensuring your memories don’t disappear.

1Seek out treasure

Locate historical material onsite and ask members to search through their collections for photos, scrapbooks and so on. The Synod Congregation Document Preservation Policy spells out which records must be kept for legal purposes and these records are the property of the Uniting Church and not the local congregation. When sorting memorabilia, a good principle is to keep items that no one else is collecting and only to retain items that you have created. You can’t keep everything, so your archive should aim to be instructive and representative.

2Create a filing system

Establish a simple, logical labelling and filing protocol, and make an inventory using a mainstream spreadsheet software program which can be easily accessed and updated. If your church does not have a digital filing and archiving strategy, create one now.

3Catalogue and copy photos

Sort photos (print and digital) and create digital copies. Label with as much detail as possible (you might recognise the youth camp in 1975 but your children won’t have a clue). If you have very old photos, seek expert advice.

4Gather new stories

Oral histories provide an invaluable insight into the fabric of church life and the impact of the momentous social changes of the last century. Enlist the help of younger members to utilise up-to-date technology and storage options.

5Don’t stop

Archives are living collections of how we come together as communities through the good and bad times, so remember that you are part of the unfolding story. Processing contemporary records in a timely fashion will ensure that the archive becomes a valuable and sustainable resource into the future.

6Store items safely 

Store the collection appropriately in archival-quality folders and boxes in a safe place which can be accessed and monitored.

7Use your archive 

Harness volunteers to curate regular displays from the collection around themes or anniversaries. Putting your treasures on display will create opportunities for older members to share their stories with other generations, and will remind us all that their faith and service are an enduring legacy for the whole people of God.

Synod and Assembly guidelines and policies are available at ucaqld.com.au/synod-services/communications/archives

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