If you’re embracing spring and cleaning out your office, don’t toss those old files into the recycling bin until you offer them to your company’s archives. If your company doesn’t have archives, or if you can’t recall the last time you updated them, read on.
Our LifeStories work at Lilja revolves around helping clients share their stories. Individual LifeStories clients always have a plethora of photos, documents and keepsakes to help tell their stories, but sadly, business clients usually only have a few precious photos and source materials to work from, and they often lack a system for keeping track of them. And when it comes time to celebrate a company milestone with a history book or timeline installation, no one can find the photos of the new building’s groundbreaking or remember the names of employees past.
It’s not surprising. Businesses are usually too busy doing their amazing work to chronicle the journey as it’s happening.
There will never be a perfect time to create and organize company archives. But if you dedicate just a little time up front to create a system for saving and labeling photos, documents and other important items as they are created, the payback will be well worth the time investment.
Identify one or two people on staff to be in charge of the company archives. If you’re starting from scratch or don’t have a staff member who can devote the time, consider offering an internship to a library science or history student in the area. You’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished in a matter of weeks by someone whose primary focus is the archives.
Establish a location where staff can drop photos and other items into a file – both physical and digital. The easier and quicker it is for people to submit items to be recorded, the more great keepsakes you’ll have.
Consider photographing and scanning everything to create a purely digital archive. Paper files have a habit of getting misplaced over time, especially as staff members leave or the business moves its offices.
Encourage everyone to take photos (high resolution, if possible) of special projects, at company events and around the workplace. After events, remind people to share their photos with the keeper(s) of the archives.
Important documents, marketing materials, company newsletters and articles about your business are great artifacts, too! These things may not seem worth saving now, but they will be invaluable to anyone trying to tell the company’s story in the future.
Don’t forget to take photos of your tools of the trade. A photo of today’s dental instruments or computer technology will have tremendous value decades from now when those particular items are considered antique!
Every few years, take a moment to write down important milestones to keep a running timeline of your business. Your mind is much fresher about last year’s event than it is about something that happened ten years ago.
Always, always, always note names, dates and locations on the back of every photo. If you’re working with digital photos (and hopefully you are!), save this information right in the file name. Your future self will thank you.
It’s the photos, documents and articles that will help future leaders and staff tell the story of the great work you’re doing today.