A keeper finds a place for everything and loves any small, eclectic gift, which to them shows the character of the gifter.

Liza J. Schade is Curator of Collections & Exhibitions at the Washington County Museum. She writes an occasional column for the Tribune. To visit WCM, go to

Happy holidays from all our staff and volunteers at Washington County Museum!

This is the time of year when we all get inundated with holiday greeting cards and stocking stuffers. Trashers see these small items as nothing but a holiday nuisance. They literally throw their cards into the fireplace, a junk drawer or donation bag. A keeper finds a place for everything and loves any small, eclectic gift, which to them shows the character of the gifter.

Here are some ways you can preserve holiday heirlooms:

Scrapbooks — The most traditional way is to scrapbook. We have over 200 scrapbooks in our WCM archive, going back to the late 1800s. In the past, people simply pasted entire cards, articles and photos into these books. Now there are all kinds of creative ways to cut them up and arrange them with stickers and labels. One piece of advice though: look for acid-free paper and be careful with choosing adhesives, as they can often damage paper or dry up, which allows the content to slip out.

Cards — Annoying when they pile up, but most people feel guilty throwing them away, knowing there is some sentimental note inside. Traditionally, people have scrapbooked cards. Today, a fun idea is to save them all from one person for 10 years or so, then bundle them up with pretty ribbon and send them back as an amazing time capsule. You will end up going down memory lane together!

If there is no note on the inside, cut the front cover off and reuse them as gift tags or cut them even smaller and make a garland. You can also scan the images and inside notes separately, and then create digital picture frames or albums.

Trinkets — My husband's family has a strange (but sweet) affection for tiny animal figurines, which they give each other in every Christmas stocking or and when someone travels. These small knicknacks ended up all over, so I gathered them up one day and created a large shadow box display for our spare bedroom. I simply bought a cheap display case (about 2-by-3 feet), laid down a nice cloth with a couple of blocks underneath and set up all the figurines in a fun leveled display. Guests love to look at all the little details. You can also gather them up and give or sell them to a museum, eclectic toy shop, online site or charity.

Decorations — I know you may be attached, but throw away those broken ornaments. No need to keep that 10-year-old dried-up wreath either. Save your truly sacred family heirlooms by purchasing a large Tupperware bin, an acid-free box and some polypropylene foam sheets. Cut the sheets the size that will fit into the bin. Then cut holes the shapes of your items into the foam with a box cutter and set the trinkets inside each specifically shaped hole. Take a needle and thread (or muslin ribbon), poke through and secure the heirloom from falling out. You will end up creating trays of artifacts, which you can layer safely into the bin, cover with a cotton cloth and store safely. This is very similar to how we take care of smaller artifacts at our museum, but it works great for preserving your precious family memories as well.

Enjoy your holiday season and stay cozy and warm.

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