Back-to-school season is an exciting time. It marks the beginning of what will surely be a memorable year filled with unique moments, big decisions and the inevitable late-night study sessions. It’s also an opportunity to seize the fresh-start momentum and establish new initiatives for the year.
As sorority and fraternity collegiate members head back to campus, do your future selves and chapter members a favor — save a little history. Take it from us, a bit of preservation and organization now prevents headaches and over-stuffed sheds in years to come. To help, we’re sharing a few helpful tips to get you started.
- Think digital, but don’t forget the physical.
Consider this a modern-day scrapbook, but with less glitter and stickers. What you see in past chapter albums — tickets to events, invitations for formals, officer & fundraising reports, recruitment campaigns, trip photos, etc. — are now all digital. Make sure to download and save those items together in a single space. There’s often a misconception that because things are created digitally, they’ll always be available. But as technology changes, our current file formats, communication methods, and storage systems will evolve as well. You can learn more about that in our free born-digital preservation guide. We’ve seen a shift away from physical touch points this past year more than ever, but there are still items that might exist in both spaces. Campus newspapers, for example, might still circulate print editions. Consider saving physical issues that mention chapter members or events. These are the types of items that put your fraternal experiences in the broader context of campus life and current events.
While the bulk of what you set aside to capture the past year, or four years, will be digital, think creatively about objects you can include as well. You will always treasure your badge and pins, but also consider setting aside some of your t-shirts or tumblers. They may seem small now, but those items preserve your chapter’s brand in a very tangible way.
- Work as a team.
Don’t go it alone. You have a whole community of helpers at your disposal. Establish a committee and identify clear responsibilities for each member. Put someone in charge of reaching out to chapter members to submit photos, another to be responsible for gathering media mentions, have someone champion branded materials — divide and conquer.
Be sure to establish a project manager, a person to keep the process moving and to organize all the materials. Your chapter may have an historian position, who could be a natural fit, or you can ask someone who may want this type of project to list as experience on their resume.
- Keep things neat.
Compile your memories into one, communal place. If your files live on a chapter member’s personal computer or cloud storage account, even with the best of intentions those items are at risk of being lost. Consider creating an account for your chapter that credentials for can be passed down as collegiate members transition into alumni.
We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again — document. Keep track of what you’re saving and where you’re saving it. Share a few details about each piece so future members can better understand the significance of your items. We have a handy spreadsheet to help that’s free to download.
- Back, back, back it up now.
Having everything all in one place is great, but if that’s not duplicated you run the risk of losing everything if something goes wrong. Think water spills on a hard drive or your computer crashes. If you have your files backed up with a cloud storage service, copied to a hard drive, and physical materials are properly stored, your memories are much more likely to be preserved.
We always recommend that you store physical objects using acid-free boxes and files, such as those from Hollinger Metal Edge. These materials slow the aging process and help your items last longer.
- Make it accessible.
Lastly, but definitely not least — your stories need to be accessible. Your experiences and memories are valuable tools for future members and alumni, but if they cannot find them, those lessons are lost. If you have not yet invested in a digital archive system, now is definitely the time. Preserving history in a way that’s easily accessible and searchable to any one at any time is the core of what we do at HistoryIT.
Our preservation & digital museum packages help chapters create powerful storytelling platforms to share with everyone in your community. We digitally preserve your history using industry best practices to ensure your traditions and communal experiences are preserved not just for four years, but for life.