Sunday, March 18, 2012

Preserving photos and paperwork for an eternity

I recently saw a posting on craigslist for someone looking for help creating photo albums. It sounded like she felt she really needed help because of the quantity of albums that would need to be created. This reminded me of a project I undertook for myself over this past year.

First a little background. I am an extremely organized person, so I have all of my paperwork filed in a couple of file cabinets—one larger one for most things and a small one just for school stuff. When I was a young girl I asked my mother if I could create scrap book photo albums of the boxes of photos that she had and she said yes. So basically, everything is very organized.

I started thinking, however, about how none of this paper is protected in any way in the event of a fire or tornado or some other natural disaster. I have also been thinking about downsizing and becoming more mobile, so I knew I would not want to pack all of that up and move it somewhere.

So I started with the paperwork. I began by going through it and found, thankfully, that there was some stuff that could go directly into the recycle bin or through the shredder. After that I started a huge scanning project—several thousand pages, although there’s no easy way to know the total since all the documents are saved in many different subdirectories in my computer.

Next I decided to tackle the photo albums. I knew that I would not put them back into the albums, so one album at a time I pulled out a couple hundred photos and started scanning. This was a bit easier to total since most are in one main folder containing subdirectories and Picasa shows me that it’s almost 1,600 photos—wow!

Have you used Picasa? It’s a free Google program for storing and editing photos that I highly recommend. I will tell you more about that in another post.

The photo is one of my favorites, that I became reacquainted with in this process, of me and my dad at Tallulah Gorge in North Georgia. He’s holding my mom’s purse, in case you’re wondering, while she’s taking our photo. And the museum mat border around the photograph was achieved through Picasa with one click of the mouse.

I accomplished the scanning with my all-in-one printer, and I won’t tell you the brand/model because I don’t really recommend this one—it is a few years old, so I imagine there have been improvements. I will tell you what I personally didn’t like about it so you know what to shop for. The scan bed is 8 ½” by 11 ½”, but a standard sheet of paper is 8 ½” by 11”. This meant that every page had to be cropped by ½”. There is a setting for the scanner to automatically crop, but it doesn’t work well, so I had to turn that off.

Scanning photos, however, was much easier. I was able to lay as many photos as would fit on the scan bed and the scanner was able, as long as there was either a white border or a space between, to properly crop each photo.

After I scanned both the paperwork and the photos and checked each file—you have to do this because every once in a while a page will be missing—I backed them up as live files on my external hard drive and then I shredded them. I also do monthly compressed file backups of my entire computer—you must do this if you have your life stored on your laptop like I do.

So now that you know what I did, you probably know my reaction to the person wanting to create photo albums. I rarely looked at the albums that I had created all those years ago. Every once in a while I would remember a specific photo and then I would have to thumb through many pages to find it. Now all I have to do is open up Picasa, and I can easily scroll through my directories until I find what I’m looking for. And I have infinite possibilities for screen saver slide shows.

Maybe that person’s photos were digital photos to begin with and she also had them printed. Mine were photos from film so there were no digital files. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t create photo albums if that's something you will enjoy having, but if your photos are from film, you should scan them first.
Oh and for now, I have kept the negatives, but I’m unsure why. I doubt I would ever have a need to print directly from the negative. Besides, does anybody even do that anymore?

Question: Do you have a scanner that you recommend?

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