How to make the most of Memory Lane, FamilySearch’s new, free-to-use digitization tools

If the family photo album is gathering dust or old home videos are stuck on VHS tapes, Memory Lane offers ways to digitize media for ease-of-sharing

Mary Hallman shuffles through stacks of colorful photos. Most are from her time as a sister missionary in Alabama, but several show her as a young child. As she scans them one by one, each picture appears on her computer screen, digitized for future posterity.

Hallman scanned her photos Monday, June 26, at the Family Memories Preservation Center, also called “Memory Lane,” in Salt Lake City. The new space is located on the FamilySearch Library’s second floor.

The facility provides patrons with free access to self-serve equipment for converting family documents, photos, home movies and other media to digital formats.

Hallman said that while it’s fun having physical copies of her mission photos, digitizing and uploading them to FamilySearch is what makes them accessible to future generations.

“We think about platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and it’s so great that we can connect that way,” she said. “But I just have a hard time imagining my [future] grandkids going to search my Instagram to figure out who I am.”

So she’s grateful that FamilySearch provides a place to digitally preserve her memories, Hallman said.

Preserving memories is exactly why the FamilySearch Library has dedicated a space to digitize media. Lyn Rasmussen, a certified genealogist at the FamilySearch Library, said it’s “a precious thing” watching Memory Lane patrons digitize photos and videos that they previously couldn’t share due to obsolete technology.

“We get excitement and even tears,” she said.

What to know before you go

Rasmussen said the Memory Lane space underwent six months of renovation before opening in January to a limited number of guests. Monday marks Memory Lane’s grand opening to the general public.

The facility includes five photo scanning stations, an audio tape to MP3 converter, and machines that digitize VHS tapes and 8mm tapes. There’s also a large private room where families can gather to watch old videos.

Rasmussen noted that audio and video digitize in real time, meaning that if a VHS tape has two hours of video, processing it will take two hours. Guests are required to stay with their materials at all times, so if a tape is long, it’s recommended that patrons bring something else to do while waiting.

She also asked guests to remember that while FamilySearch specialists are on hand to offer guidance and answer questions, patrons are expected to digitize their own materials.

Rasmussen added that walk-ins are welcome, but she recommends making a reservation to ensure that needed equipment is available. Guests can reserve Memory Lane equipment on the library’s website.

Visitors are encouraged to bring their own flash drives or portable hard drives, reported. Portable USB drives are available for free but may not have enough memory for larger projects. Patrons can also load files directly to a personal online storage location like Google Drive or iCloud.

Strengthening bonds

Rasmussen said preserving past memories is part of bonding with ancestors. Guests sometimes tell her they “gain strength from [their ancestors’] struggles.”

And while preserving one’s own memories will benefit future generations, it can also deepen current connections. Mary Hallman came to Memory Lane with her boyfriend, Bailey Jensen, and said she loved sharing her mission experiences with him as she scanned photos.

Jensen added that while he’s not familiar with all of the technology available at Memory Lane, he’s learning a lot as Hallman works on her photo project.

“The people here are so open and inviting,” he said, “and any question that you have, they [can] answer it.”

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