Preserving Photographs and Memorabilia: Part 1

Posted by Aaron on

1888 carte de visite photograph of Orbert and Lillian ColeThe “Problem”

  • Boxes of photographs and memorabilia from your family stored in your attic or basement?
  • Photographs on your phone?
  • Does someone else have the photographs of your family that you most desire?

Have no fear; there are multiple ways to keep and preserve them for future generations!

1935 photograph of Blaney family children at a picnicOver the years, I have become the “repository” of multiple families’ photographs and memorabilia It is an organizational nightmare, but also a treasured responsibility. I have been trying to organize, then scan, then either preserve the photographs and memorabilia OR return them to the appropriate direct-line family members.

Where do I begin?

Step One: Organizing

In my previous blog, I went over organizing the genealogy research paperwork aspect of organization, but photographs and memorabilia are in another realm.

The first step in any project is to organize the items by family group. This can be difficult if the items have been jumbled into a box in the attic.

  • Take photographs out of magnetic albums, frames, cardboard boxes, or other acidic materials in which they are currently stored.
  • If possible, identify the people in the photographs and memorabilia and try to determine a date and location of any event depicted. NOTE: If you have a lot of old photographs, which are not labeled in any way, you may want to take a look at Maureen Taylor’s wonderful series of books about identifying dates / family members by hairstyle, clothing, etc.
  • You may also want to sort items by material type or chronology. This largely depends on the collection and your choices about how you want to organize.
  • Label the photographs in some way, being mindful to use non-acidic products (labels, pens, etc.).

Some tips:

  • Be willing to give or throw away duplicates.
  • Acknowledge that the project will probably never be “perfectly” organized!

Suggested reading:

Please come back next month for part two of this blog, which will provide information about scanning, digitization, and preservation of your precious photographs and memorabilia.

Happy Preserving!

∼ Mary Sue, Reference, Bealeton library

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