Preserving Your Story: the Association of Personal Historians
This year, 2015, is the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Association of Personal Historians (APH). Their mission is to preserve the legacies and stories of people, families, communities and organizations. Founded in 1995, the nonprofit now has over six hundred members. They hold an annual conference, and this year it will be in Sacramento, California, in October. Executive Director Linda Coffin, describes the Association as “an organization of enthusiastic, creative people who are committed to making sure that everyone has a chance to tell his or her story.”
The organization’s blog page lists some reasons why people consider documenting their stories. “You are the only true witness to the events of your life!” By “recording your story, talking about family history” you leave a gift for the future. Although you may not consider your story to be anything special, future generations will.
The Association of Personal Historians realizes that many people may not be enthusiastic about their own story, because of the tough parts – such as a car accident, a run-in with the law, or a first marriage. These may be things that people would rather forget. The APH urge you to remember what you wish you were told about generations that lived before you. Remember your own curiosity, which will never be satisfied. Part of the curiosity is that “people have a fundamental need to understand where they’ve come from.”
One of the bloggers on the site talks about a presentation they gave to ten year olds about the state’s history. They had a rapt audience while talking about the local village’s history, but when they showed photos from 50 years ago of the same school the children now attend, the children were even more enthused. The presentation included reflections of former students on the now-defunct routines of baseball before school, children going home for lunch and inviting the teacher to go along with them, the types of fun before cell phones and computers, and memories of very little homework. Today’s generation of children was able to glimpse a world of the past, one that they can only begin to imagine.
As an example of the importance of documenting a legacy, APH uses Leonard Nimoy, famous for his Star Trek roles, and his two memoirs, I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock. By writing his own tale, Nimoy was able to make sure his memories and life were documented in the way he wanted, instead of leaving it up to the media to twist it. Writing those books was a way for him to leave his legacy for all to know.
Tell me about the good ol’ days, Grandpa … (Photo by Shonna1968)
Often, within families, telling historic stories is a matter of timing. When grandparents get older, they may become forgetful or have less energy to tell stories. Younger generations of children and grandchildren may be too busy to listen, involved in myriad activities. Maybe no one seems to get around to sitting down and listening. By the time younger generations clamber for the tales, it is just too late.
The Association of Personal Historians is a group that can make it easier. They can help you with storytelling, gathering photos, or creating a website, DVD, or CD. They can even help you write a memoir or book. The APH can work to preserve photos, edit documents, conduct research, weave events together, and otherwise help you create your legacy work. Different local city chapters exist too, giving everyone opportunities to work with the people they choose.
The group also sponsors seminars, both online and off. They teach attendees how to write well, or invite visitors to join their “show and tell” events by bringing old photos and stories to share with others. At Everlasting Footprint, we support all efforts of people to capture the stories of their loved ones.