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Resources for Preserving Old Photographs

You know you’ve got to take care of those old family photos, so let’s get started by following a few simple guidelines.  DIGITIZE now Scanning old family photos facilitates sharing and saves wear and tear in the original. The only type of scanner to avoid is an auto-feed machine. No sense in running the risk…

You know you’ve got to take care of those old family photos, so let’s get started by following a few simple guidelines. 

  • DIGITIZE now
  • LABEL carefully
  • PRESERVE the original

DIGITIZE now

Scanning old family photos facilitates sharing and saves wear and tear in the original. The only type of scanner to avoid is an auto-feed machine. No sense in running the risk of damaging a fragile image during the scanning process. 

Whichever device you choose, select the highest quality scan options. 

  • 600dpi (dots per inch)
  • tiff (file format)

If  you are looking for a handheld scanning option, try PhotoScan by Google for glare-free, high resolution results. Images are auto-cropped, straightened and enhanced. Available for both iOS and Android devices. 

Remember those old photo albums with black construction paper pages? These crumble within a few years due to high acid content and will cause the photos to age prematurely.

  • Scan each page as a whole, and in order. It’s possible the original order of placement may answer identification questions. 
  • If there are 6 images on a page, make 7 copies. 
  • Crop individual 6 photos. 
  • Keep the full-page view for context. 

See also: 

Melissa LaMaster Barker, Preserving Old Black Paper Photo Albums on A Genealogist in the Archives blog, posted 13 June 2018. (http://agenealogistinthearchives.blogspot.com/2018/06/preserving-old-black-paper-photo-albums.html : viewed 10 June 2024.)

Richard Hall, The Ultimate Guide to Scanning: Understanding Scan Resolutions, File Types, and Best Practice posted at LinkedIn 21 April 2023. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ultimate-guide-scanning-understanding-scan-resolutions-richard-hall : viewed 11 June 2024.)


LABEL carefully

Identifying individuals in family portraits is challenging, so it’s best to do this as soon as possible. 

  • Do not write on the face of the  image itself. 
  • Once you’ve scanned, add a text box below the digital image to label people, location and approximate date. 
  • Consider using safe marking pencils and pens.

Preserve the Original

It’s difficult to find true archival storage materials, and they aren’t cheap. But can you put a price on saving a 150 year old tintype of a US Civil War ancestor?  Gaylord Archival is my go-to place for finding acid-free, lignin-free storage solutions that have passed the P.A.T Test. 

Gaylord Archival® Black Barrier Board Flip-Top Photo & Print Box

Print File® 8 mil Polypropylene Album Pages for 4 x 6″ Prints (25-Pack)

“The Photographic Activity Test (P.A.T.) is a simulated aging test developed by the Image Permanence Institute to predict which storage materials will cause accelerated deterioration or staining in photos, a very sensitive medium.”

Source: Gaylord Archival, Material Specifications & The P.A.T. Logo, posted 19 Dec 2023, (https://info.gaylord.com/resources/specifications-pat-logo : viewed 10 June 2024.)


Which ever scanning, labeling and preservation methods you choose, let’s get cracking!

Myrt

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