What Should You Do With All Those Family Photos?

My dad passed away a few short years ago at the ripe old age of 95. Overall, he had a wonderful life and he is missed by many. As a young man, he was an avid photographer, with a concentration on taking photos of people. Few events in life passed without his capturing pictures of the people who were present. His collection, passed on to me, numbers in the thousands. Like many a family’s collections, that collection includes photos of ancestors long gone. We’re fortunate to have those archived images, but sadly the vast majority are unlabeled. In addition, most of the collection is mounted on album pages that are in tatters and may be contributing to the early deterioration of many prints.

My task now is multi-level. Moving those prints to safer storage is my primary goal. Before placing the prints in acid-free boxes, I’m photographing these original images and creating a digital filing system that can be accessed by our descendants in the future. I’m doing my best to put names to faces, using just my memory and the inexact method of facial recognition of father/mother to son/daughter. Technically speaking, I’m saving most of the photos as jpgs, because I believe that it is a digital format that will survive the longest. As for file size, I’m making the decision as to which ones are basic for Internet and digital frames, and which ones might likely be printed large once the original print has long faded away. This is not an easy task by any means.

I’m telling you all this because, if you have the opportunity to talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins about the people in your old family photos, I suggest you do so now. Think about how you plan to store and record this priceless record of your family’s life and times. Think about what you’re leaving to your kids, and their kids and so on. Get to know your family while you still can. This is not a trivial matter. If you have no one to whom to leave photos, please consider labelling them carefully and bequeathing them to the historical societies of the towns represented by the photos. They will treasure them for you.

If you’ve found a good way to deal with the responsibility of archiving family photos, send me an email or leave a comment, and let’s start a conversation.

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