The Star-Herald

Resolve to curate your photos

As 2019 looms many people will think about making resolutions.  Genealogists are no exception when it comes to resolutions though many of us fail to keep them  However, if you’re going to make a resolution may I suggest you take care of your photo collection.

Almost everyone has a collection of photos either from our own past or a family member’s.  Nothing can be more frustrating to a genealogist than inheriting a box of wonderful photos with no idea who they were.  The original owner of the photos knew and therefore didn’t feel the need to write down the names leaving us to make educated guesses based on what clues are to be found in the images.  My husband is fortunate that his mother identified each of the photos she left him. My own Mom’s photos are part of the game “try to guess me if you can.”

So, fellow genealogists, are all your own photos labelled for those who will come after you?  If you’re like me you have an assortment of albums, scrapbooks, boxfuls of photos from years ago, some stashed on CDs, flash drives, or unused old computers.  Have you always intended to do something with them but never got around to it? Perhaps in 2019 you could make a stab at doing that.

Keep in mind some simple rules.  Don’t use stickers on the backs of photos, however tempting, and don’t write on the back of a photo with a ballpoint pen.  Both of these methods will lead to the eventual deterioration of the images. Pencils are OK and there are special pens you can use safely.  You can find these in good hobby shops or online. If you’re the album type go into a hobby shop and get acid-free sleeves and corners and mount the photos and write the information below the photos.  It doesn’t have to be a novel but just identifying people by name “Uncle John Jones at Bar Harbor, 1948” will delight the future genealogists in your family.

If you’ve got lots of good photos stashed on CDs you might want to move those to flash drives or use photo software such as PhotoShop.  If you’re a non-techie person I can tell you that new computers don’t come with CD slots anymore and CDs are going the way of those early large floppy discs.  If you’re like me you probably have a stack of those somewhere as well. Genealogists hate throwing things out. But, before the images become less accessible you might want to move them or at least make good copies.

One final tip, you can store photos safely in clean metal boxes.  A metal box is a safe repository for photos, slides, etc. The things to avoid are acidic photo papers, cardboard boxes, and exposure to light, damp, and paper-loving rodents.  Future genealogists will bless you for taking time to note the names of people in the family or who/where/when/what an image portrays.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.

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