Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Preserving those special images

Preserving those special images
Written by Jack Robinson
I have examined thousands of images throughout my adventures as a historical researcher. Many speak volumes as to what they represented. Some are easier then others to decipher. Christmas time holding a Rubik’s Cube, a graduate in gown, with the year dangling from their cap on a thin chain, or a birthday party scene with a numbered candle on the little cake, with a person’s name hanging on a sign in the background are only a few examples.


I also, however, have come across thousands of additional photographs during my various research projects that have no clear evidence indicating who, what, where, or why the pictures were taken. Individuals a hundred years ago, or just forty years ago, had no idea their images would someday be used to bring a clearer perspective of an event within a family’s history.
How many times have you "cleaned out" a cluttered drawer of an old dresser and came across an image that you vaguely remember the people but, had no ideal as to when the picture was taken or even why? Imagine sometime in the near future someone accidentally stumbles upon a photograph that you took and had stored in a drawer, between the pages of an old favorite book, or an old dusty family chest, forgotten decades ago deep within the dark spaces of the attic.

I need to mention that there are, without a doubt, some wonderful concerned family members committed in taking great pride in preserving their genealogy through the use of photographs. Their work in detailing each image is always impressive. For the novice, however, a basic guide in preserving images will always be beneficial for family and friends.

One of the first things to stress in preserving images is that not all photographs need to be filed away into a shoebox for safe keeping. With today’s technology, for example, at one event among the various attendees, thousands of images can be taken. You should pick one or two images that best describe a particular occasion.
Grandma & Pa Robinson

A good tip is to write on the back of images being preserved the following information: year, people or place within the image, and a brief note. Remember the photographs are meant to be seen decades from now so any added comment will always be good. You could also keep a logbook of the images containing additional notes.
After identifying the images you want to keep and then writing information on the back of each image, what do you do with them next? You could purchase individualized acid-proof plastic sleeves since these types of ink, paper, and containers are the most desirable way to preserve images since these materials are chemically treated to preserve items. They are, however, in most cases are very expensive.

For the beginning preservationist, however, the main thing to remember about a storage container for your images is it should be placed in a dry, cool location away from direct sunlight within your home. Next to an open window without blinds or the vent of your air conditioner unite are not good places to keep your images but, on the top shelve of a closet, to be taken out and shown from time to time to your family and friends, would be ideal.

I have salvaged thousands of images from the beams of an attic or damp corners of a basement of a house. The environment does extreme damage to photographs, not to mention various species of vermin. At all costs, avoid the use of glue, and scotch tape, or metal fasteners on your images. Metal when exposed to the environment will actually dissolve a photograph. Glue and scotch tape will leave a discoloration that will eventually damage an image.
If you plan to use a scrape book instead of a boxed style container to store your selected images, it is strongly suggested to avoid the use of scrape books where you adhere images directly onto the page and then replace a protective clear cover over them. These types of scrape books use a form of adhesive backing and do not hold up to the quality needed to protect your most valuable pictures. An excellent alternative to the adhesive type scrape book is a binder style containing sturdy clear plastic sleeves. I recommend purchasing album sleeves that state "Acid-proof," since they will do the most good in preserving your photographs.

I hope these few basic tips allow you to develop a method of preserving your most significant images for the next generation of your family and friends. Have your children, grandchildren, your brother and sister, father and mother assist you. Each can add their own recollection of events to be compiled within your notes. Preserving images is a great way to pass the time and bringing the family a little closer by doing something fun and meaningful.
For a final tip, give your own children or grandchildren an image of when you were a child and talk about what is being depicted within the image. Maybe they will start their own family scrape book for their next generation. They make a great family heirloom.

Steps in preserving images:
1. Select only one or two pictures that represent the event or place when the images were taken. 2. On the back of each image write a brief note on the w, w, w, w, w of the image itself.
3. Sort the images by chronological date.
4. Place images into a binder or scrape book that has "Acid-proof" sleeves.
5. Store scrape books in a cool and dry area of your home.
6. Have a get together with current friends and family to
discuss the preserved images. Take and save notes.

Jack Robinson has had graduate level studies in the art of preserving images and documents. He has also been an intern at two local archives and served as an "acting Curator" at one of our local museums. His experiences and accomplishments in cataloging long forgotten images are well documented and have been recognized by numerous state and national organizations. His most recent recognition came from the North Carolina Society of Historians where he earned two "Paul Green Multimedia Awards," and the prestigious "Barringer Award."

Article notes compiled from Jack Robinson’s personal research material and family scrape book.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Hi Jack

Great blog - good to see you sharing your skills and experience.

I recently had to head over to the UK as my father fell ill. While I was there I made a point of digging out all the old photos I could find of our family. In order to preserve them I scanned them all at a very high resolution and titled each file. Then I made a list of all the file names and jotted down as much info about the photo as I could and saved that as a Word document. Perhaps this could be something to do in addition to the tips you've made. That way there's more places that the pictures are stored and it's easy to make copies from digital files.