Monday, November 30, 2015

Family History Gifts: Oral History

I've been giving a lot of thought to how to give thoughtful, budget-conscious Christmas gifts to the 52 members of my maternal family this year. With a family like that (and a budget like mine), it can be quite the conundrum. I had aspirations of using the products of my garden to make everyone something homemade and herbal-y, but my experiments in making herbal vinegars turned out a little lackluster.

Finally, just before Thanksgiving, I realized that my best bet, as usual, was family history.

I have recordings of several interviews with my late grandparents, and my idea is to burn them onto CDs and slap a bow on the jewel case. Awesome present, reasonable price!

Despite having 50 blank CDs in my living room, my plan is currently more aspirational than anything else.

The Plan
1. Edit the interviews
2. Burn the CDs
3. Design an attractive and informative insert
4. Bows

1. The Interviews
Interview 1, with Grandma, is actually fully complete, edited and ready to be shared. Because I e-mailed it to everyone several years ago. So Interview 1, on its own, does not a present make.

The recording of Interview 2, with Grandpa, begins with several minutes of unrelated conversation in the background. While I don't think any of my relatives has entirely forgotten how drunk my cousin was at that wedding in 2009, I'd like to edit out the gentle scolding she got from cutting, if only as a courtesy. I am confident that this simple cutting is something I can manage, I just haven't exactly learned how to do it yet. (The cousin in question will get the unedited version. I think she'd love to hear herself taking with Grandma again, no matter the subject matter.)

Interview 3, with both of my grandparents, was recorded close to a decade ago, on my college laptop. That laptop was so loud that everyone from my roommate to my professors commented on it sounding like "a rocket." What I did not realize at the time was that the dull roar of that exceptionally loud fan would become part of the recording. (Duh!) I am not at all confident that I (or anytime) can fix the sound quality on this one. If I can't, I have to figure out whether it's worth sharing anyway. (I think the answer is yes, but will have to listen to it again to make sure it's not more frustratingly to listen to than rewarding.) A sample track is currently with my musician cousins, who will hopefully tell me if there's anything that can be done.

2. The CDs
I purchased these Verbatim CDs from Amazon. (Archival Gold CDs for everyone were unfortunately not in the budget, although they're the gold standard of CD preservation.) I had to do some investigating to remind myself what the CD specs referred to. They are labeled as "700 MB 52x 80 minute." But what on Earth does that mean?

  • 52x refers to the speed at which the CDs can be written.
  • 700 MB refers to the amount of data that they can hold.
  • 80 minutes refers to the length of recorded audio that they can play. 

Since the recordings that I have take up far less than 700 MB of space, but run far longer than 80 minutes, I was a little confused. Would one CD hold all three of the interviews I want to burn, or would I need 3 or more CDs for each gift? I had to do a little more research to find out, and eventually learned that it depends on the format in which the tracks are burned. Audio files are much larger, and will take up more space. The CDs can hold 80 minutes worth of audio files. Data files (e.g. MP3s) are much smaller, and so 700 MB of data may hold far more audio. However, data files may be incompatible with some CD players, especially older ones. They will play on computers but some people may not be able to play them on their home or car stereo systems.

I chose to keep these gifts compact and burn the files as MP3s, so that I only needed to use one CD per recipient. All of my relatives have computers, so even if some of them cannot listen to the CD elsewhere, they will still have access to the files.

3. The Insert
I have a brand new printer, but it doesn't print in color. Even though I really wanted to get the color printer so I could print nice color inserts for these CDs, I don't usually have any need to print in color. I knew that this one project couldn't justify spending the extra hundred dollars or so that it would cost. I'm googling "attractive black and white design" to try to figure out how to make these inserts a little more eye-catching than just black text on white, but graphic design is not where my skills lie. If it happens that I am able to put together something that I'm proud of, I will post a follow up.

4. The Bows
I'm just going to buy some bows.

How are you incorporating your family history into your gift-giving this holiday season?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase from Amazon after clicking one of these links, I will receive a small portion of your purchase price as a commission. The price you pay doesn't change! I personally make a point of starting my Amazon shopping through the affiliate links of bloggers and friends whenever possible, so that large corporations are not the only beneficiaries of my purchases, and encourage others to do the same, regardless of whether they use my affiliate links or another blogger's. 

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