Sunday, April 01, 2012

"Family" Visit

As I previously posted I had made a date to visit some distant relatives to add to the family tree. The documented family tree currently consist mostly of names, dates and relationships, which is the base for any family tree research however what it needs to come to life is family history and photographs of those individuals. The group of relatives that I spent about three hours with discussing family was one of the better groups, very likeable people. When we started showing photographs they had a large number of them. I finally got to see what the original person I was tracking looked like – he was a man so full of personality and good humor it just showed in every photograph you looked at. Some people are like that.

The photographs are what bring me to the topic I would like to comment on. All of the photos I looked at from the early 1900’s forward were good photographs and in good shape. Frankly the old black and white photographs prior to 1960 were printed on heavy paper and held up much better that the photos today. Some of their photographs were loose, some were in the old black paper scrap book photo albums, and then there were those of more recent original that happily were not those electrostatic photos album of the 1960’s and 1970’s with the thin glue strips.

Many of you may have a photo album from your parents or grandparents that was made of black paper and they wrote in white ink (I hope they wrote in it) the name of the person or event and maybe even if you are lucky the year. Sometimes the photo was glued directly to the paper and sometimes it was put in with those corner stickers. I think the worst is when they used scotch tape to put them in with as it yellows and falls off after a number of years and it leaves you wondering which photo matched up with the white ink label saying “Harold and Maude at beach 1921.” Unless the photo album is in bad shape I would leave it alone (if it is not broke don’t fix it) with the exception of scanning it for a digital backup. The three things I think that are important with these types of photo albums are to store them out of sunlight - don’t leave them out on the coffee table - store them in a closet or box. Second, maybe think about putting archive tissue paper between the pages so the face of the photographs do not touch when the album is closed – it will prevent scratching. Third, remove any staples, paper clips, rubber bands or string as those items can create creases and rust stains.

I always recommend scanning photographs to give you a digital backup. I would not try to remove the photographs to scan them. Scan the entire album page or as much as your scanner can cover. You can always copy that full page photo and crop it down to the single photo later, if you need it. When copying use the maximum DPI setting your scanner has so you capture as much of the image quality as possible. You may want to use a TIFF format instead of a JPEG type format. Remember to always clean your scanner screen every four or five scans as you will touch it with your finger tips placing and removing the photos and you will end up with finger prints on the glass screen.

Odds are your photo album will last longer than the CD you are making your digital backup to. Paper Photographs will last about a hundred years or more, the negative is good for at least 130 years, Color Polaroid pictures are good for 50 years, black and white Polaroid maybe the same but with fading, the CD you are backing up to will last about 20 years if the technology doesn’t change so it is unreadable, video tapes and those 8”, 5” and 3” floppy disk will last about ten years and the magnetic media will start flaking off. So for your backup you will have to recopy with each new technology that comes along.

The one photo album I would recommend removing the photos from (if possible) are those electrostatic photos album of the 1960’s on up to today with the thin glue strips. They are death to photographs for long term storage. I will write about in a future post.

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