A personal project that I've been involved with for over a year is the Museum of Mat & Kat. I absolutely love it and it's helped us reconnect with people we hadn't spoken to in years.

It started when my parents moved house and Mat and I had to clear out our last remaining UK possessions and ship them to Spain, which included all our photo albums. Printed photos take up a surprising amount of space and some had already started to deteriorate so I decided to scan all of the photos as a back-up.

Photo albums are easy to browse and ours had captions, which I wanted to preserve. Scanning also prompted a bigger question: what are we going to do with all these digital photos? We now take more pictures and video than ever, but that can make it hard to search for a particular image and it doesn't always give the full story.

Going through other mementos we discovered a hand-written travel diary, tickets and flyers from events, invitations from weddings and parties, and even badges and certificates from childhood. These are the kind of items you tend to carry around without knowing why exactly. We love decluttering and I was on a roll with the photo scanning, so we decided to photograph and scan everything then get rid of the originals. I ended up scanning around 5000 photos and other items on our slightly temperamental A4 flatbed scanner.

A few of the physical photos we threw away after scanning

The idea of throwing away original photos and personal trinkets might fill you with horror, but do you really want your old school reports and every postcard you've ever received to be something you carry around for the rest of your life - or even worse your legacy for someone else to sort through? We like to travel light and we're not sentimental, so a digital record is a great solution for us. Side note: we always make sure we have multiple backups so there's no risk of losing everything in a single digital disaster. Also, the scanned photos waited by the front door for several weeks before we finally got up the courage to throw them out!

The next question was what to do with all these online documents. The solution for nearly all our problems is a website, so we created an app where we could catalogue everything by date, keyword and topic allowing us to search for particular events.   

Around the same time, just out of interest, I had been trying to work out how many escape rooms we had ever done (53 to date, in case you were wondering). I decided to try and list them all and ended up becoming a personal detective in our own lives, using a combination of emails, online calendars, reviews we'd left, Google timelines, bank statements and interrogating friends to track down each and every one. We had photos from many but I tracked down missing ones from the Facebook pages of the escape rooms (I even got banned from Facebook for a few hours for scrolling through too many photos!)

Some of the escape rooms we have completed

Our new app was the perfect place to record all these and I'd got a taste for digital detecting. The two ideas dovetailed perfectly and the obvious next step was to turn the app into a Museum of... absolutely everything. I like an ambitious project.

Suddenly all the memories we had been carrying around with us, physically or mentally, had a home to live in. Stories we'd been recounting could be recorded and verified as much as possible either by checking photos, reading old letters and diaries, searching online or talking to friends and family. Very quickly we realised that our memories were totally unreliable and based on available evidence, events had actually happened in a different order, in a different place or with different people than what we remembered. It's been fascinating rediscovering our lives through the lens of other people's memories and realising how much we have misremembered.

Our parents had been considering what to do with old photo albums and they both ended up getting all their photos and slides digitally scanned by Film Scan UK, who gave a fantastic service. We truly hit the jackpot of new material for our Museum, although trying to work out dates or even decades for all the family photos has been a much harder task. We've loved having the opportunity and excuse to record our parents' memories about the photos. Luckily they are very patient people and humoured us with this project!

The more we added, the more topics presented themselves. How many weddings have we attended? Where were we for Christmas and New Year every year? Is there a record of all our birthdays?

Remember all our birthdays

Our museum has a feature photo for each item, a text description, keyword tags and a link to an online photo album containing more images. There's also a share option and space for other people's comments. For obvious data security reasons, it's not visible to the public.

I love the feature in Facebook and Google Photos which shows you events from the same day in previous years, so we decided to integrate that into our Museum. It's great to see memories popping up from years gone by, and not just ones that we have photos for or shared on Facebook.  It's also really handy for settling an argument or fact checking.

We are still adding new items to the Museum, recording important and significant events (including any new escape rooms, of course). There are many gaps in the Museum and it will be an ongoing project for us for years to come, but hopefully it will also be a useful reference as our memories get (even) worse.

Do you have a keepsake box or stack of diaries, and if so how often do you go through them? Tell us what you'd record in your own Museum.

Tagged under: Team   Fun   Leisure   Entertainment   App  

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