Somewhere in your home, there’s a collection of some of the most precious things in your possession, yet they rarely see the light of day. Stacks of albums and boxes chock-full of your old photographs preserve fond memories, important milestones, and stories of the family heritage. These mementos are far too important to throw out, but some of them may be so old that you’re afraid to really do anything with them. So what do they do? They sit in your basement, taking up space. Let’s change that.
Preserving your old photographs can get a little time consuming, but it’s easy to do and your family members will be thanking you for generations.
Make Digital Files
The easiest and least expensive way to preserve your photos is to scan them and store the digital files on CDs, a jump drive, or external hard drive. Equip yourself with a scanner, computer, and your old photos, and get started with the process.
Handle the original photos with care, only touching the edges when placing them on the scanner. If your photos are still fixed in an album, don’t force them out—this could tear, bend, or curl the photo irreparably. Instead, scan the entire page of the album then crop the photo on your computer. Many scanning softwares allow you to do this before the file saves.
Carefully document the photos you are scanning. Make note of the year, the event, and who is in the photo, and then note the name of the digital file for easy reference. It’s helpful to put this information on a spreadsheet, then save that on the same CD or jump drive as the scanned photos themselves. If any information is written on the back of the photo, you may want to scan that as well to preserve the old handwriting.
Archive the Originals
Once you’ve scanned your original photographs, it’s important to store them properly to prevent further damage and deterioration. Place them in acid-free albums and archive boxes, then store in a cool, dry area. The About.com Genealogy page has a more complete list of photo preservation dos and don’ts.
Display Your Favorites
Choose a number of your favorite photographs and have new prints made from the digital file you scanned. Place them in a small album for a great coffee table book you and your family can casually flip through. Or arrange them on the wall in a series of different sized frames to create a “family tree” for display in the family room, hallway, or stairwell. It’s a wonderful way to share your family heritage and teach your children about their ancestors.
Taking these careful steps with your old family photographs will help preserve those special moments and memories, so that you and your family can enjoy them for generations. For more tips and ideas when creating a family tree wall, check out this post at Design Mom.