My Role to Preserve Family Stories

I have been procrastinating.

I had time on my hands, so I dug out four framed prints of a Montreal artist that belonged to my parents, who have been gone but not forgotten for a few years now. They were sketches of well-known landmarks in my hometown of Montreal. I didn’t have much of an emotional connection to them, except that my parents had them on the wall at home.

The frames were old, but not in a good way. There was some damage to the actual prints. They were large and, multiplied by four, would take up a lot of real estate on the wall.

What to do? I wanted to honour my parents’ value for those pictures but wanted something more manageable in size.

Having travelled throughout England, I learned that buildings and physical objects had to be repurposed; otherwise, they would head for the dump – or tip in English terminology. A horse trough becomes a long, raised flower bed, for example. Old structures built as a pub can become a prison, then town hall, and now a bed and breakfast accommodation.

Well, before I did anything irreversible, I wanted to confirm the value of the prints. I didn’t want to become a joke on the Antiques Road Show! I checked with my local art gallery, which referred me to a certified art appraiser. He reviewed the little history I had of the prints. Then he checked several online databases. Lastly, he talked me through his findings on other similar art pieces and framing styles.

I quickly learned that these art pieces were worth about $60 each. In a way, I was relieved they weren’t worth a lot. If I tried to sell them, I expect to get considerably less than their appraised value. Best case scenario doesn’t happen very often.

So how do I repurpose these prints?

I decided to take the prints out of the frames, cut them to print size, about 5” x 7,” and have my favourite framing store put them on wooden plaques. That would make a nice collage, keep the memory alive, and remind me of my visit to the locations as a child.

Mom & Dad would be proud.

Please give this a bit of a think. What is one of your favourite family history tales, remembrances or other stories? How can you bring it forward in your family so it isn’t forgotten? As older adults, we have a greater sense of context, history, and families’ inherent value.

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think below in the comments section below.

Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

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2 thoughts on “My Role to Preserve Family Stories

  1. Wayne MacDonald says:

    Glen thank you for sharing this story about the dilemma you faced in working through what to do with these prints from your family home and parents in Montreal. A few years ago I did a series of presentations for EPL’s on the topics: Researching Your Family History, Writing Your Family History and The Care and Disposal of Family Heirlooms.

    At the Family Heirlooms presentations I was always pleased when participating members brought along treasured family heirlooms or had pictures on their phones. The conundrum for many of these older folks was that they all had sentimental attachments to these heirlooms but their children did not. Even though some of the items were extremely valuable the owners, who wanted their children to inherit them, knew that they were not appreciated or wanted. They had come to recognize that their children’s tastes and priorities did NOT include their elderly parents value for the items. At times it was almost heartbreaking to hear them explain the importance of the heirloom, its history to the family and value. So then we would engage in a discussion of how they could continue, for now to enjoy the heirloom, while it was in their possession – but begin to explore the options of selling or gifting the item(s) to special people in their lives. They left the 55 minute presentation with a better insight and perhaps a plan of how to proceed to dispose of their treasured heirloom(s). In my own case we have numerous heirlooms of historical significance. Recently while preparing our new wills my wife and I was advised by our Estate Planner that these heirlooms are not only of monetary value but have significant historical value to Canada. We were also advised that because they are heirlooms handed down from earlier generations of the family, because of their historical and financial value, upon our death the estate might face a claim from other family members. This was an interesting bit of insight as we have always felt that we are merely caretakers of these precious heirlooms that have been handed down over several generations. Luckily our son views the items not for their monetary value but as items that reflect his heritage and long family history to the contribution of Canada and our family members. Whether he keeps them, donates them to Archives Canada or sells them, after we are gone, for now we continue to enjoy them and celebrate their significance from our past generations and symbol of the foundations of our future.

    Wayne MacDonald
    Family Historian

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