Filling the Memory Bank

Many people have pictures of their most precious memories -- vacations or birthday parties -- shoved into a junk drawer or lying around on a computer, waiting for someone, anyone, to look at them. These photos tell the story of your family, and yet there they sit.          

Why do we never get around to organizing or displaying them? For many people, there’s not enough of a payoff, says designer and author Lyn Peterson, whose latest book is Real Life Kitchens (Clarkson Potter 2007): “You commit so much time and effort to framing them or putting them in albums, and then what do you have? An encyclopedia of almost-never-opened photo albums or the same ol’ pictures on the wall going up the stairs.” But creating a fun and unusual display that puts your photos front and center is totally worth your while.

String ‘em up Run a “clothesline” with any sort of roping -- ribbon braid, lip cord, braided nylon or even an actual clothesline -- in an area of your house that lends itself to a photo gallery. Attach the photos using binder clips, hair clips, colored paper clips, clothespins or whatever you have around. “If you’re hanging pictures in your child’s room, you could even use sparkly barrettes,” says Paige Gilchrist, editorial director of Lark Crafts and author of At Home with Pictures (Lark Books 2004). “It’s a way to customize your display and make it your own.” And when you’re tired of looking at last summer’s vacation, you can easily sub in this year’s holiday photos.

Put them in card placeholders Peterson uses them to seat guests at dinners and birthday parties. During the holidays, she puts seasonal photos in there as decoration in the living room. But you can use them year-round -- anywhere in the house.

Make a growth chart If you have young children, create a work in progress on your wall, suggests Samantha Moss, contributor to Photos: Style Recipes (Weldon Owen 2005). “Attach a measuring tape -- either a cloth one or a wooden one -- to your wall. Measure your child at a regular interval -- say, every six months. Mark off your child’s height with a white line and then attach a current photo on the side. To make it more interesting, alternate between vertical and horizontal pictures.

Create a collage Every fall, Lisa Newland of Everett, Wash., makes prints of all the photos she shot of family and friends over the summer. With about 60 of them in hand, she goes to her family’s beach cabin and creates a collage on the linen closet door. “There’s no science to it,” she says. “I just overlap the photos in such a way that you can see the subject. I attach the photos with pushpins.” The collage, which takes her about 45 minutes to put together, is ready when the next summer rolls around. Guests love to check out last summer’s memories. At the end of the summer, she takes it down and puts all the pictures in a photo album.

Don’t waste your doubles When Peterson has several similar shots, she’ll send her kids’ lunch in a paper bag with a picture taped to it and a little caption underneath. As she says, “Every little thing doesn’t have to be saved for eternity.”
by Catherine R. Kelly