This very old, very precious photo shows my great-great grandparents John and Sarah Allen and their family around the turn of the 20th century. It’s amazing to have this to keep the family memories alive.
Sadly, John’s namesake and great-grandson suffered from Alzheimer’s and so my Mum, his sister, read up a lot about this condition. She was particularly inspired by the concept of Memory Books which can be used to both capture and stimulate memories. I was therefore very interested when I was contacted by a local lady, Anne Forrest, in her quest to spread the word about her Digital Life Stories. These are effectively video versions of Memory Books and can be compilations of photos, film/video footage and music, providing a multi-sensory experience that can get amazing reactions. Seeing Anne’s work—some of which you can find on YouTube (Winston, Boy and dog and The Bride)—it struck me that these aren’t just for people with dementia. They would make a thoughtful gift for anyone. So, with Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I’d give you some hints on how to create one for someone in your family.
I’m not sure which software Anne uses to create her Digital Life Stories, but for many people probably the most convenient free software to use is Windows Movie Maker. This is part of the Microsoft Windows Essentials suite of software, so you may already have it on your computer. If not, download it from Microsoft’s website.
Once you have your software, you need to gather and digitise your images. Start at the beginning of the family collection and work your way through, bringing your story up to date. You’ll need to scan your photos; most home printers scan too so this shouldn’t be a problem. For video, you may need to buy a USB Video & Audio Grabber. Film will be harder to digitise; there are some hints, again on Microsoft’s website.
Don’t be limited to your own images. Many organisations are making their digitised historic photos and footage available. Google may help you find clips that add atmosphere to your story; download these using keepvid.com. Do be careful of copyright status—use The Public Domain Review to get pointers to many public domain and Creative Commons sources.
All you need do now is put it together, which Movie Maker makes very simple following the steps on the Movie Maker page. Have fun playing with the animations, visual effects and themes; you may be surprised how creative you can get. At the end just save or publish your movie … and then enjoy sharing all those memories with the family.