To get a good handle on where you're going, sometimes it helps to know where you have been. Knowledge of what is in front, is informed by what was behind.
Conserving details of each generation of a family is a valuable marker for people desperate to know where they fit in, and even for people who know exactly where they are going. Items don't have to be hierlooms in the commonly accepted concept of worth-a-fortune. Postcards, scribbles on the back of envelopes, ragged letters tumbling from tatty envelopes: all contribute to the fullest picture we can manage of a generation.
The State Library of NSW in Macquarie Street held a "Preserving your Family History" course on Friday where we listened to the "does and don'ts" before having a 1-to-1 with up to four specialist conservators with reference to specific items. I took in my father's drivers' licence from WW2, a letter written by my grandmother in 1910 and the diary of my uncle who died in London in 1956. They were all symptomatic of the problems of my collection as a whole.