Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Label Your Photos

One of the things we frequently find is photographs. Old black and white photos, daguerreotypes, vintage Olan Mills posed photos, and old color instant Polaroid’s. Sometimes, we find boxes of them! We usually put them away for the family, unless we have been told to just throw them away and sell whatever frames they are in…you read it right, throw them away. The first time someone told me that I was so stunned that I blurted out “Oh my gosh, no, I can’t throw them away, it’s your family!” The client calmly informed me that all family members already had copies of most of the photos or at least of the ones they wanted. As for the older photos, they had no idea who was in the pictures so they held no meaning or sentiment for them. How sad, I thought.
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Which brings me to the point of today’s post: Label your photos. Let the next generation know who is in the picture, how they are related, where and when the picture was taken (if known), and anything else you might want someone to remember (favorite uncle, fought in the war, etc.) I know, I know, it takes time and it’s a lot of trouble. But try. Do some every night while watching TV during the commercials. Set aside time to get together with other relatives and pick their brains if there are mystery pictures in your possession. You don’t have to do it all at once; you don’t have to go buy expensive albums and acid free boxes for storage. Just write down what you know and keep it with the picture. You can write on the backs of the photos IF you use a soft lead pencil with very light pressure or a permanent odorless marker. Do not use a regular permanent marker; it will damage the photo eventually. You can buy the ones that are safe for photos at hobby or photography stores. If you use a pencil, do not use much pressure so you don’t leave an indentation. 
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If you have much to write, use an index card and keep it with the photo in a sleeve. If you feel really industrious you can scan all of your photos into your computer and give each a unique number. You can then create a table of numbers with a description or columns of information for each picture. Just be sure to back it up once you get it done! I did a little quick research and found that the Canon CanoScan (various models), Epson Perfection Model V300 or V500, are probably the best scanners for this task. Each offers different features so research which one will best serve your purpose. Scanning them into your computer also makes it easier to share them. You can print high quality images at home that are equal to or better than some quick print retail options. If this sounds like way too much technology to navigate or will be too time consuming for you to tackle yourself, there are companies that will scan, restore and store your photos for you. Prices start around $20 and vary depending on services requested.
Once you complete labeling and/or scanning, you still have photos to store. Light, humidity and temperature are the greatest threats to old pictures. Store them inside your house in a dark closet. Never put them in the attic, outside, in the garage, or in a basement. (If you move, lol) This is the part where you can spend some money buying quality albums and boxes that are acid free. But if you can’t or choose not to, plastic sleeves (not Mylar or vinyl) will protect them, as will a box. Just keeping them dust free and away from light and temperature extremes will go a long way in preservation. If they are hanging in your home, make sure they are not getting direct sunlight on them. 
I hope you have old photos that you can identify and share with your loved ones. I promise you they will appreciate the effort you put into doing it. A strong family history is something parents can pass on to children giving them a sense of belonging, pride and self worth. Knowing that you come from a long line of good people makes you want to work hard to become another link in that chain.

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