Tag Archives: family history

Copies Rock

If you’ve been following my little blogging attempts for a while you’ll know that I have a great passion for old photos. Looking at them, talking about them, the people and places they show, and also displaying them. It’s my thing.

While a lot of people have kept negatives and slides from decades ago, and have the printed photo in an album or a picture frame, most would be hard pressed to find that particular negative or slide to have another print made, should their first print get lost or damaged in any way. And the vast majority of people do not even have any negatives or slides, either because they were thrown out eons ago or because their old photos are from a time where there weren’t any negatives. Or the photo they have hanging on the wall in their bedroom was done by a professional photographer, who didn’t hand out negatives or copies.

Displaying an original is not a good idea, because it definitely will get exposed to light (sunlight or artificial light) and very likely get exposed to dust, humidity, to the acids in non-archival frames, backings and matting, or get stuck to the glass of the frame, which happens more often than you might think.

Have a look around your home: if you have any photos displayed – and you should 🙂 – are they the originals?

If they are, I suggest you tackle this task over your next free weekend, and have copies made, or make them yourself. Then you put the copy back up in its frame on the mantle piece and the original photo safely in an archival album. That way your original is not in any danger.

If it is already a copy, well done. Better check you still have that original, or the negative, or the slide, and if not, get a copy of that copy.

To get copies is so easy these days:

  • Use your copy/printer and simply print a copy of your photo. Naturally a copy on ordinary white copy paper won’t deliver a flash result, maybe you want to look into investing in some proper photo paper, it has come down in price a lot in recent years
  • Maybe you have a copy/printer + scanner. Scan your photo, save it on a thumb drive and go to your nearest photo print place. Prints cost next to nothing these days, and if it’s a good photo print place, they will be able to assist you if you have any questions.
  • If you have a fancy camera: put your photo on a flat white surface in a well lit room (no direct sunlight) and take a photo of your photo. You can then either upload on a computer or laptop or take your memory card directly to a photo print place. Or print it yourself if you have a decent printer and want to invest in photo paper.
  • Use your smartphone as you would the fancy camera.

Old photos in particular have odd sizes. Simply print bigger and use some fancy scissors to cut them out, like I did with the two shown in the picture.

Copies rock

Copies rock. I have a whole lot of them of original family photos like that, and I change them around all the time 🙂

 

 


Action Plan – Two – Handling and Sorting

The last post explained how to assess the collection of old photos and documents that somehow ended up in your possession. In this post I will get into details on how to handle your old photos and documents. Most are common sense, but some might surprise you.

  • Have a clean area to work in, ideally near a large window, for light. Don’t sit in the sun and don’t turn on any artificial light. Generally avoid exposing the items to light as much as you can, so if you intend to work on them today, do it, and then tidy them up again. Don’t leave them lying around for days on end.
  • No food or drink anywhere near your working area, please.
  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling any items, and many times in-between (to be using cotton gloves is a bit of a myth it turns out, for which I am glad, because it’s really hard to sort through anything paper while wearing them: ‘Misconceptions about White Gloves‘).
  • Carefully flatten folded photos and documents. There are ways to separate them if they are sticking together. I have read about them, but I’ve never had to use them. ‘How to Flatten Folded or Rolled Paper Documents‘.
  • Hold at the edges only.
  • Remove staples, paper clips, rubber bands, sticky envelopes.
  • If you must write on your items, do so with a light pencil only, don’t press down too hard. Write legible, someone might have to pick up the work after you, don’t make their job harder because they cannot read your notes.
  • Use plastic sleeves when documents are too brittle to be handled without support. They should be enclosed but not encapsulated.
  • Never laminate papers or photographs.
  • Do not use glues or sticky tape to mend ripped items.

When sorting larger amounts of photographs, I find that initially spreading them out on our very large dinner table is the best way to go. Then I might sort them by occasion (wedding), chronologically or even by amount of deterioration eg. all undamaged photos first, then gradually getting worse.

In this initial sorting stage you could just keep everything in large acid free envelopes (cut off the sticky bit, glues and papers don’t mix). Or you could already look into where you will put everything as a long-term storage solution: acid free folders and boxes, and chemically stable plastics. This is a big subject, and I will get into this more in the next post.

I have a couple of high quality archival boxes which fit A4 sizes. With acid free cardboard separators and lots of acid free paper in-between I can easily keep photos and documents sorted, labeled, and separate from each other. It helps to have things orderly, because it will likely be impossible to do everything you want to do with them in one week. I tend to keep photographs and documents separately.

For this task not to get too tedious and frustrating, set yourself achievable goals. Finish one step at a time and don’t be afraid to walk away from it all for a couple of weeks.

Once everything is sorted to your satisfaction, and you found a way to tidy items up properly and store them safely, it’s time for the next assessment: which of them and to what degree do they need a surface clean?