The feeling you get when you discover old photographs is akin to unearthing buried treasure. Seeing old forgotten memories from your childhood, parents, and grandparent’s childhood can overwhelm you emotionally. Family photos play a significant role in tracing your ancestry and history.
You often look at the classic black-and-white photographs, with the subjects in a stiff pose or the faded childhood photos and random photo snaps with nostalgia.
To make sure that you always have these memories, here’s what you can do to make them last a while longer:
- Salvage what you can from old albums and frames
Old photo albums and frames suffer from wear and tear after a long period. They also have plastic and adhesive that deteriorate gradually, releasing fumes that are harmful to the photos. The first step is to try and salvage what you can. Try to remove any photo that you can from its
housing, may it be an album or a frame, wearing cotton gloves so that you do not further damage the photos from the oils in your hands.
Try to get as much information as you can from the photo, such as dates and names of the people in the photo that someone may have
scribbled on the back. Because, as much as the photo is a memory, the information also tells a story.
Be delicate with old photos as they might be fragile and can be easily damaged. Some photos may be stuck together, and it may be challenging to pull them apart. You can try delicately running dental floss through them and see if you can pry them apart. Others may be stuck to
the glass encasing them in a frame. Trying to pull it off may rip it out. So instead, scan it. It is easier to retouch the glass than to add in what might have been cut out.
- Sort them out and pick the best
Among the salvaged photographs, those that are blurry beyond recognition, scenery shots without people, and double prints can be discarded. Not all of them are worth keeping. Pick out pictures that jump at you and those that seem to stand out. Create a system of sorting out your photos. You can decide to sort according to a particular side of the family. Do not throw away photos of unfamiliar people. You may not know them, but maybe your parents or grandparents might and they would be glad to see them.
- Digitize your memories
To save and restore your old photos, creating a digital image is the best way to go about it. Digitizing your photos works as a back-up in case the original ones get damaged. If you do not know how to digitize them, don’t worry. You can always get a professional with a good quality scanner or a digital camera to take photographs of your photos while keeping them as close to the original as possible.
Endeavour to capture the unique nuances that black-and-white photographs tend to have. Once that’s done, you can work them into your décor by grouping them to create a photo collage, which you can then print out on canvas, frame it, and hang it on your wall.
Attach information regarding photographs, such as date and names, events, and their locations in the digital copies. Create a system for search and easy retrieval of photos. Then make copies of your digital photos and save them in flash drives and CD and store them carefully. These are
the back-ups to your back-ups.
- Store photos under favorable conditions
After you have created a digital back-up of your photos, it is time to store the originals for future generations to sift through later on. When storing these photos, there are four things to consider. These are:
- Temperature: It is best to store photos in cooler temperatures because high temperatures will cause discoloration. Maintain a constant temperature to decelerate the aging of your photographs.
- Humidity: Temperature and humidity go hand-in-hand. Ensure that you store photographs as you would library books, away from water and moisture, in a place that is neither too dry nor too wet, too warm or too cold.
- Ventilation: Combat the growth of mold in and around your photographs by ensuring that the storage space is well-ventilated.
- Light: Make sure to store your photographs in a dark place as light causes them to fade. The color dye’s longevity in photographs is seriously damaged when exposed to light, especially direct sunlight. Degradation by light can be seen in photos that look washed out with faded colors.
- Print and share
The hard part is done. All that is left to do is print out these photos, frame them and hang them on your walls. You can place others in photo albums for people to browse leisurely through.
You can also create an online archive for your photos where people can log in to view them. Please share them with your family members through the various social media platforms.
- Invest in the correct photo albums
This may seem like an expensive undertaking, but it worth every penny you put in. After you have sorted out your photos, you can have them restored and made to look almost new. Some professional restorers can restore yellow and faded images, remove scratches and creases, and
bring back lost color by adjusting brightness and color balance through digital restoration.
Once your photos look as good as new and you have made digital copies, it is time to store the originals. Get photo albums that are gentle to your photographs. Make sure that they are not made of abrasive material or PVC plastics. The best ones are those whose sleeves are made of
polyester. They are gentle and do not contain abrasive glues that damage the photos.
There is nothing more heart-warming than sitting down with your grandparents, browsing through the photo album, and hearing them tell you stories about each photograph. Photos are evidence that something happened, and they help keep the memories alive. Let’s preserve
them for future generations.