Your memories are precious, so show them off in a special way.

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If you like surprises, your family probably will, too, and there's no nicer surprise than using your creative inspiration to craft a photo album that present and future generations can enjoy. Time goes by quickly, and those hundreds or thousands of photos you have in shoeboxes or on disks and thumb drives can be valuable mementos if you just take the time to get them organized and arranged in some logical order.

There are lots of products and services on the market that can help you bring your photos into the light of day in a big way. Whether you like the idea of a handheld album, an online photo sharing service or a software package that can create files to share, there's something out there for you. The popularity of scrapbooking has given the old picture album a big push into the realm of multimedia, and you can easily use your photos in fun and unexpected ways. If you're a renegade, you can even print them on fabric and sew them into a quilt or wall hanging. How's that for turning candid snapshots into family treasures?

If you want to archive photographs in a handheld album as opposed to electronic media, make sure they'll stand the test of time by using plastic and paper products that are compliant with the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) designed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). PAT-compliant materials won't fade or cause unsightly stains. If you can't find PAT-compliant paper, use acid-free paper and avoid using cover sheets made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

On the next page, we'll take a look at a few photo album ideas that may focus your attention on new, exciting and fun ways to share and enjoy your photos.