Capturing Memories Is More Than Just Taking a Picture

Joan Hight Alston (left) and Joyce Hight Hawkins (third from left) with friends in Joyce’s kitchen, Ozark, Arkansas, ca. 1990.

When I say you should “capture memories,” what do you think of?

My guess is that you would get out a camera or your smartphone and get ready to take a picture or get a video.

But a picture captures only a still moment in time. And a video is usually reserved for big events like birthdays or Christmas.

What about those family stories? You know, the ones that you remember your grandmother telling but you don’t remember the names of all the players or the specifics?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. I remember my maternal grandmother and great-aunt talking with my mother about their parents (my maternal great-grandparents) and how wonderful they were. My maternal grandfather was one of thirteen children, and memorizing their names was a family right of passage.

On my dad’s side: We spent two weeks every summer in Clarendon, Arkansas. My paternal grandmother and her sister lived next door to each other on North 2nd Street. Hours were spent in my grandmother’s living room, with her four children and their spouses and children gathered. Stories were told. News was passed—who died; who was born; divorces; town gossip. “Remember when…”

It is not as Norman Rockwell-esque as it sounds. I wanted the TV on or my older cousins to get up so we could play outside or go to town to Fred’s. As a small child, it was boring. It was adults talking about adult things. I just wanted to watch cartoons.

But what I wouldn’t give to have recorded some of those conversations. To know the details of those stories. To remember the names of the people involved or the specifics of the events.

Right now as the pandemic rages, it’s the perfect time to capture those stories. I know we aren’t supposed to be gathering, but with the magic of technology, you don’t have to. Zoom and other video conferencing tools are great for capturing what goes on at family gatherings. Send out an invitation to your nearest and dearest. Get your mom or dad together with their siblings or cousins, hit record, and start asking questions.

Don’t know how? Well, we’ve got it all outlined for you. Go to RobertsLibrary.org/oral-history/ and find instructions, questions, and tips and tricks on how to capture your family memories while you still can. Or join us for our monthly oral history workshop, Oral History at Home.

Also coming soon: the Central Arkansas Library System will have recorders available for check out from select branches for recording oral histories (audio only).

Now is the time to capture these stories for all time. Don’t wait.

By Heather Zbinden, CALS Roberts Library Outreach Coordinator

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