In every home we have lived in, we hang photos of our ancestors. However, I wanted a more prominent place for a collection of photos that would encourage our family to celebrate our heritage everyday. Our current home has a long, wide wall in the stairwell, which, for the first 4 years we lived here, remained blank. This seemed like a good candidate for a grand ancestor wall. As I cleaned out some boxes in another part of our house, I came across two boxes filled with wooden plaques I inherited from my grandfather’s woodshop when he moved to an assisted living home after grandma died. Suddenly an idea clicked in my mind, that these plaques which so strongly remind me of the fun memories helping grandpa in his woodshop, could be merged with my idea for an Ancestor Wall in the stairwell.
Being the frugal person I am, I also thought using the plaques would save money over purchasing many frames. My artistic teen daughter helped me choose paints we already had into a coordinated color theme. She added a coat of brown paint in a textured pattern over the wall. We found a long scrap of crown molding the builder left from installing our kitchen cabinets that fit nearly perfectly at the top of the wall.
I then selected my favorite (digitized) photos from my collection, making sure to represent all the branches of our children’s family tree and sent them off to the printer for copies to be made. I also chose some fun journal snippets from my grandmother’s extensive journals, as well as a couple of maps from locations where clusters of our ancestors lived.
We painted the plaques with an assortment of colors. Each photo had to be custom trimmed due to the slight irregularities and unique shapes of each plaque. We adhered the photo prints to the plaques with craft glue. Then we were ready to plan our layout. This tends to be the trickiest part of any art installation, it seems. We used a large place on the family room floor to lay out the plaques and some photo frames I already owned.
Then, with the help of a ladder and a tall husband, we spent a few hours installing the collage. I LOVE walking by this wall several times everyday. I love the questions my children ask about who-is-who and what they did and why they have a funny mustache. Our ancestors will never again be out-of-sight-out-of-mind when we look at them daily on this wall.
In fact, I love this wall so much, that I used it as the backdrop for #genealogyselfie day on February 1.