Tuesday 7 March 2017

Digitizing Memories

I am currently digitizing all of our family albums. There are 60 of them spanning the years 1969 to 2015. There will be one more as soon as I get the last batch of photos mounted into number 61. I have finished scanning 37 of them which contain over 1,750 images comprising 3.3 GB of space.

So why would I want to do that?

Well, these albums contain all of the memories of our family captured in pictures, from when my wife and I met to the last trip to China to see our granddaughter’s lead performance in the Alice and Wonderland ballet. The main problem is that our family have all grown and moved away and are busy raising their own families. So the albums have sat on the bookshelf with no one to leaf through them. Yes sometimes the kids take a few down when they visit – to show their own children what growing up looked like. But since the visits are not very frequent the many years of memories do not get visited often.
Our Family Albums – now numbering 60, plus a few miscellaneous, specialty albums, containing pictures of our family from the time we were married.
I wrote about our albums and other material in a blog What will we do with future photos? last April. At the time I commented on what would people do with the thousands of pictures taken now with digital cameras.

The other reason for digitizing all the albums now is that I keep wondering what will happen to all these books when we are gone. I mentioned that in my previous post as well. That’s a great worry for all family historians – the preservation of files with family information gong back hundreds of years and memorabilia including everything from grandparents’ correspondence to cream cans used to haul milk from the farm way back when. It is all important to me but will it be to my descendants.

At least with digitizing the albums I can hope that our family memories will be preserved somewhere in virtual space where our children and grandchildren, and hopefully their children and grandchildren, might one day have a look-see.

The first 32 albums were the coil-bound type, usually with around 40 pages. Because I could not take the pages out and scan them separately, I had to hold the books down on the flatbed scanner and make an image much larger than the actual page size. Then I went through and straightened and cropped them. The last group are three-ring binder style which makes it easy to lift out and directly scan each page at 8 ½” x 11” size. Some of the binders have over 100 pages. It takes about an hour to do complete the digitizing of one album.

All the albums have the magnetic self-adhesive pages with the clear, fold-over leaves, although many of them are not very sticky anymore and the clear covers tend to come loose. That means some photos dropped out as I went through the books and had to be stuck back down with a glue stick. No matter! The end result is what matters.

I left the clear page covers down when scanning the pages. They did not generally interfere with getting a good scanned image. Certainly they are good enough to see who and what is in the photos. I also scanned at 300 dpi so the images are large and detailed enough to withstand enlarging on a monitor.
Screen shot of folder on my hard drive with album page images
One great thing about this exercise is that I have been able to relive the memories myself looking at every page as I went through the scanning process. It is neat to revisit the day your daughter arrived in the world, or your first grandchild, see the early school pictures and extended family get-togethers at Christmas. There are also wedding and birth announcements, some of which I have copied to my family history files. And copies of Christmas letters received over the years. In short, there is much more to our family album library that just pictures.
Some of the memories recorded in photos from albums now digitized
As I indicated in my April 2016 post, I am redoing all the old family albums of my parents. I am now working on volume five which will be the last one. They are large, leather-bound books. I have many of the really old photos scanned but will probably digitize all of the albums once I have finished the last one.

I will be putting the completed digital album library online so that all of our family members can access it – anytime and anywhere. The hunt is on now to find just the right venue to hold it all and still be secure. All the albums will go into plastic storage boxes now rather than back on bookcase shelves. I don’t have the room anymore for the bookcases. They will still be available if someone wants to dig out an album or two and they will be handy for whoever wants them later.
Albums now stored in plastic bins

Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.