Preserving Veteran Letters

Macro shot on an old documentMy Grandfather was a medic in WWII. He had already met my Grandmother before he left to go to war. They did not marry until he returned home after the war. He was a true army hero, and received a purple heart for being injured during the war. He was a paratrooper, and unarmed as he jumped from the sky to save lives on the ground below.

My Grandparents exchanged letters while he was away. One time, my Grandmother shared some of those special letters with me. I begged her to let me inherit them. It seems only appropriate for the oldest granddaughter right? She said that I could have them one day when she passes away. I hope she doesn’t forget.

When, I get these letters, I want to preserve them. What are some ways you can scrapbook something so precious?

First, you need to make copies. The types of papers that were used so many years ago will not last forever. They may last through my lifetime, but they certainly won’t last through the lifetimes of generations to come. So, make a photocopy of the originals onto acid free paper.

Scrapbooking these letters can be fun, but I would not suggest scrapping the originals. Use your copies for the actual scrapbook pages. Including a photo of the people exchanging the letters is a great way to give life to that letter, and to the past. When putting the letters into an album, you could dedicate a page to each letter. Read the letter and decide what the “theme” of the letter is. Work on creating a page around that theme. For example, if it is a true love letter, try scrapping it with love themed papers and embellishments. If it is a series of letters, make sure to put them in chronological order.

Scrapping excerpts from the letters is another creative way to preserve special memories. If there is a sentence that you love, make that the title of a scrapbook page, and then put a picture of the two corresponding in the letter on the page. Never cut the original! Make copies if you want to cut out excerpts.

Another way to scrapbook them is to take a photo of a stack of letters if you have multiple ones. Do a scrapbook page about the letters and what they mean to you. Include some of your favorite excerpts on the page. Or, you could put an entire letter on a scrapbook page, and then write out excerpts in larger print to place as “journaling” around any pictures you are adding.

There are lots of ideas for hidden journaling, or pockets you can buy to put on a scrapbook page. If the letter is too personal, try tucking a copy of the letter into a hidden pocket on a page.

Since you won’t be scrapping the originals, what should you do with them? Try storing them in acid free folders. Do not leave them in a damp place like an attic or basement because this will increase the chances of them deteriorating over time. Keeping them in a bedroom closet would be the safest way to preserve them for a long time.

Never laminate the papers as a way to preserve them. The heat can cause too much damage. And, with some things laminated, it can peel and crack over time. Plastics are acceptable, but only when made of polyester, polypropylene, or polyethylene.

Keeping letters exchanged between two of your ancestors can be very special. So, taking the time to scrapbook those letters is a great way to pay tribute to your relatives that have passed on.

Meredith Ethington is the author of this blog. To learn more about Meredith and her history with Scrapbooking and Genealogy go here.

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