Personal Archiving: What Is It?

Personal archiving refers to the practice of collecting, managing, preserving and organizing personal records and materials for long-term use and access. It involves people taking proactive steps to safeguard and maintain their own personal and family history, memories and other important documents. Personal archiving can include a wide range of materials, such as photographs, letters, diaries, home movies, digital files and memorabilia. Learn how you can get started building a personal archive.

Collection and Gathering

Individuals collect and gather personal documents, photographs, videos and other materials that hold sentimental or historical value.

Organization and Cataloging

Personal archivists organize and catalog their materials to make them easily accessible. This may involve creating indexes and databases or using digital tools for tagging and categorizing.

Sharing and Collaboration

Some individuals choose to share their personal archives with family members, friends or the wider public. Collaboration on family history projects may involve multiple family members contributing to the archive.


Converting analog materials (such as photos, letters and home movies) into digital formats ensures their longevity and facilitates easier sharing and access. This is especially important for materials susceptible to physical degradation.

Metadata Creation

Personal archiving often involves adding metadata (descriptive information) to items and providing context, dates or more details about the content. This aids in searching and understanding the significance of each item.

Backup and Redundancy

To prevent loss due to accidents or technical failures, personal archivists create backups and implement redundancy measures for their digital collections.


Preservation efforts aim to protect materials from deterioration over time. This may involve proper storage conditions, digitization of physical items and the use of archival-quality materials.

Reflection and Storytelling

Personal archiving often involves reflecting on the significance of individual items and crafting narratives that tell the story of a person's life or family history.

Adherence to Ethical and Legal Considerations

Personal archivists should consider ethical and legal aspects, respecting privacy rights and adhering to copyright laws when sharing or making materials publicly accessible.

Personal archiving is an active and ongoing process that allows you to take control of the preservation and accessibility of your personal or family history. With the advent of digital technologies, personal archiving has become more accessible, allowing people to leverage tools and platforms to safeguard their memories for future generations.