â€œI have some cassette tapes of my parents and their siblings and cousins born at and near the beginning of the twentieth century. I would love to be able to have them on CD to preserve them and in computer files to share with other family members via e-mail.â€
If youâ€™re like this reader, you have recordings of loved ones. In some cases they were left as deliberate oral histories, but you may also have spontaneous recordings on answering machines. From Edisonâ€™s first attempts to record voice to todayâ€™s MP3 explosion there are generations of recordings in need of being saved. The Library of Congress has an online article, Cylinder, Disc and Tape Care in a Nutshell with tips on preserving originals. But what should you do if you want to share these recordings with others? Help is out there.
Preserving Your Recordings
I recommend a firm that specializes in transferring audio. You can search the Web or look in your local phone book for companies, but make sure they deliver a product and know how to handle your original. I like to ask for customer references in advance of enlisting their services.
One such company is Photo Archival. Their prices start at $10.95 per cassette tape with editing services offered for a slight premium. They also offer a duplicate service–a â€œsafe deposit boxâ€ for your recordings if you want to keep backup batch at a safe location.
If you treasure a particular set of voice messages, consider VoiceQuilt. VoiceQuiltÂ offers gifts that can be personalized with voice recordings and voicemail messages. â€œA VoiceQuilt looks and works like an heirloom music box,â€ said Hope Flammer, founder of VoiceQuilt. â€œBut instead of playing music when the lid is opened, the keepsake plays voice messages from family and friends.â€
The company recently introduced a VoiceMail Rescue Service. â€œSome very happy grandparents can receive keepsakes that play touching voice messages from children and grandchildren–messages that were previously trapped in answering machines. For a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, VoiceQuilt recently extracted the wedding vows and pastorâ€™s remarks from a cassette tape and placed them in a keepsake.
If this inspires you to create a new voice recording, VoiceQuiltâ€™s selection of gift items makes a memorable present. Last year I had relatives call in with Valentineâ€™s Day wishes for my parents. All they had to do was dial a toll-free number and speak. Now my Mom only has to lift the lid to hear their messages. I also have the recording as a digital file to transfer to CD or send to cousins.
SnapGenie on MyFamily.com
Thereâ€™s also a twenty-first century technique for labeling photos. If your relatives complain they donâ€™t have time to sit with a pencil to write names on the back of their pictures then interview them about the photos. Create a MyFamily.com websiteÂ to produce a narrated slide show. I did it. It really was a cinch. I uploaded pictures, called a toll-free number, and started talking. Think of each picture as a visual prompt for a story. According to promotional materials for the product, â€œmembers record stories of a lifetime (literally); recounting events growing up using those old scanned prints.â€
Voice adds another dimension to your family history. Documents provide facts and photos images of the past, but listening to relatives voices long after theyâ€™re gone is an amazing experience.
Maureen Taylor is The Photo Detective at www.Photodetective.com. Her work on identifying family photographs was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal. Check out the calendar of events on her blog to see when she’s visiting your area.