#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Preservation

I’ve been fortunate that my family has been able to hold onto a lot of memorabilia and ephemera. I don’t know if I’ll ever get through it all. I remember years ago (decades ago), my mom showed me some stock certificates in her grandmother’s name. Where it is today, I have no idea, but I know my mother wouldn’t have thrown it away.

My most recent preservation project involved packing up slides to send off for scanning. I could scan them at home, but the process is more cumbersome than scanning photos – and I have plenty of photos to scan, too. The company – Scan Cafe – just finished scanning them and sent me a link to what we would have called “proofs” in the olden days. I can delete the ones that are too blurry or degraded with age to make out anything. Most of what’s going in the “trash” are out-of-focus landscapes; the scenery was probably gorgeous, but if it’s a blurry shot out the car window with faded colors, there’s really no point in keeping a digital copy. We will get the originals back, if anyone in the family wants to second guess my decisions.

It’s been fun looking back at the photos, and not just at the people. There’s Mam-ma’s silver tinsel Christmas tree, which I’ve heard about but don’t really remember. The ceramic cat (left) on shelves that were made by stacking bricks and laying boards on top of them. I’m looking at the picture of Mam-ma and Pap-pa’s first house on Palafox Street, which I only visited as a very young child, but I can tell you right where that cat, and the school bell, and the old hardback books were located in their “new” house in Gulf Breeze.

Once we get the full resolution scans, the next project is to sit down with my mom and go through them one by one, adding names and any other memories to the metadata. Then I’ll share some of them on FamilySearch, and create a photo album on Flickr, which I know will keep the metadata intact. I may need to pick up some thumb drives and send them to relatives, in an effort to get the pictures into more hands. The more people who have them, the more likely they’ll be accessible to others in the future.

A lot of things can happen to physical media. Fire and water damage have taken some of our family memories, I know. Digital media can fail as well; it’s probably time for me to buy more hard drives and move over all my scanned photos and documents before the drives I have go bad. Cloud storage is an idea, but what happens when I die, and I’m not around to pay the bill any more?

It breaks my heart to know that some photos are beyond saving. Like this one my mom handed to me recently. It had been in a plaster frame with a bubble of glass over it, but clearly something happened to it to degrade the faces. We have no idea who was in this picture. I scanned it just in case I can figure out some way to see past the damage to make out the features. It’s a good reminder to scan photos sooner rather than later.

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About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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