Creative Ways to Preserve Family Memories

For generations to come

by SHFamily | Fri, March 16, 2018

By Jessica Levine

Human memory is fallible. How many people remember what they ate for lunch last Wednesday, what they wore to their birthday party 10 years ago, or what they got for Christmas when they were seven?

Multiply that by several family members, and it’s nearly impossible to keep track of every moment and milestone that make up the lives of loved ones.

Luckily, there are an infinite number of ways to preserve family memories: both classic and more creative methods. From photography to crafts, and at-home hobbies to professional services, families in Shanghai have found unique ways to document important times in their lives.

Snapshots of the past

Canadian expat Tara Neal McNally recalls the moment she realized time was slipping away undocumented and vowed to do something about it.

When my third child, who was born in Shanghai, turned one, I couldn’t remember what we’d done for the past year . . . I decided to make annual photo albums, and it turned out we had done rather a lot!”

McNally says.

McNally initially planned to create one spread of family photos for each month of the year, with additional pages for trips, but she ended up with books of around 80 pages each. She found two companies that would compile albums for her – one that would send her albums to her family in Canada, and one in Shanghai.

The Shanghai-based company, Perfect Album, was founded by Marc Oosterhoudt in 2011 as the byproduct of a failed pitch to the Dutch infant formula company he was working for at the time. While the company wasn’t on board with the original project – “a solution for expecting moms to keep a diary with stories, experiences, family image, etc." – Oosterhoudt saw it's potential and decided to provide the service himself, focusing on “high-quality photo albums for an international community and globally oriented Chinese,” he says.

Now a booming business, Perfect Album creates photo books, calendars, cards, and wall decorations with easy-to-use editing so ware and customizable layouts. “Some people like to keep their books simple, with just images against a white background, where others go totally overboard with beautifully designed pages with many different scrapbook elements,” Oosterhoudt says.

The resulting albums are a lasting, beautiful way to “remember all the things we have done together as a family,” McNally says.

“Right now, it means the most to me and to our youngest, who loves to go through them on a regular basis. The children grow up so fast; my oldest is 12, and I can’t believe it. Soon they’ll be off in the world, but I will still have my books of memories, both of them and of our time in China and beyond.”

Having lived in California, Michigan and Germany before moving to Shanghai, American expat and father-of-two Phil Zak also creates photo books to document his family’s travels. “The different locations we have lived in have given us an opportunity to see many parts of the globe,” Zak says. He stumbled upon the iBook program built into iPhoto on his computer and found it an easy method for creating albums from accumulated photos. However, choosing the photos and designing the layouts can take time.

“I generally start the book layout with a quick map to lay out the geographic location for the viewers, and then take our vacation itinerary to lay out the locations and highlights from the trip.”

Zak sends the books to Apple to print copies for himself and his children. He also appreciates that the books can be easily converted into a slide show or a PDF for upload to iBook or Kindle.

As for the hard copies, the family “keep[s] the books close by on the end tables,” Zak says. “My children will pick them up now and then just to look at and comment, ‘Hey, remember this,’ or ‘Remember when . . . ’ That makes it worth the time spent.”