Three things to do NOW to start organizing your photo archive.

December 3, 2018

It's daunting, and it's on almost everybody's to do list.  Imagine if you could get a handle on this project, now of all times?  Don't be afraid!  I know it's the busy winter holidays, but these are steps you can do on your lunch break or your daily commute!


1. Mentally locate all the photos that you want to include in your family photo archive.   Think through these questions: 


~ Have you inherited photos from others? Where are they currently being stored?


~ Where are your own photos from all different phases of your life?


~ Are you including a partner? Kids' photos? Where are they?


When you finish that bite, or get to work, write a list. Or send yourself a voicemail or make a voice note. Please don't text and drive.


2. Think about weeding out your photos to cut down on the size of the collection. When I got my first 35mm camera, those first few rolls were blurry, but I was proud and wanted to save them to remember a crazy road trip AND getting that camera.  Nobody knows any of that but me. And frankly, I have a lot of photos that fit into the "I want to remember this!" category.  (And I may be a hoarder. haha) But I don't think those photos will help my kids remember our family. Nor will those photos help flesh out my family story when they end up in the Maine state archives -- or wherever they go. I'm not ready to toss them, but I'm ready to weed them from the family archive.  Keep photos that show your family, community, work, social life, volunteer work, love of quilting or other hobbies.  Some categories to consider weeding out of the family archive (and there are exceptions to every rule) are:


~ Blurry shots.


~ Photos so personal that nobody else will be able to make meaning from them.


~ Close ups of plants and meals. Unless they show something that you do want to save as part of your story, those beautiful closeups of fried chicken have got to go. Same with all your other "arty" shots that don't actually add to a story, unless it's an ongoing hobby that you want to include. Sorry. 

~ Photos that have lost their meaning. What was the point of this photo of my shoes?


~ Duplicates.


~ OPP: other people's pets.


~ Partial photos from the end of the roll. Remember rolls? :D


3. Make a plan for how you want to proceed with saving these photos for the long future.  Note that collections are strongest when they are all together, but you need not choose only one way to pass your photos along. Here are some options.


~ Family, broadly: my grandmother made albums for each of her grown kids and distributed most of her photos that way.


~ Family historian.  Most families have one person who can't get enough of the past, the details, the photos.  Ask them if they're interested; and ask them how they will pass them forward.


~ Public repository: If you're thinking about placing your archive with a historical society or other archival site, consider if you have multiple smaller collections that may be easier to place. Gram also had an album tracking her career in a women's organization and a scrapbook/photo album keeping track of the locals who went off to World War II.  I'm working now with a minority family who will place their four generations of photos and papers in a research archive dedicated to research on their ethnicity.


Don't sanitize your story, of course. But consider when an image may possibly help flesh out an historical narrative and when it undoubtedly will not. I recommend you err on the side of inclusion. Not just because I'm an inclusive collector, but because the next caretaker for your collection may make their own decisions about what's helpful and what isn't. 


Easy, right? When you're done with this little exercise, you'll have a plan in place! Locate them, weed them, pass them along.


If you'd like to supplement your photos with stories, you can sign up for 5 free prompts to ask your elders, and 5 to start telling your stories to youngsters, HERE.


If you have one amazing photo that you'd like fully documented, with input from friends or family, check out my One Special Photo package.


And if you want the whole shebang, I've got that, too!






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