Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, shows how to turn an ancestor’s photos and letters into a lasting family legacy
Angela from Virginia asks: “How should I preserve the photos and articles of my father-in-law? He was a dancer, and his mother saved a lot of articles and photos dealing with his career. This was before World War II. Do I scan them and throw the originals away? It breaks my heart to do that for any of my ancestor’s papers and photos but how do I save it all?
Angela has asked a fantastic question and one that I receive all the time. First and foremost, I am so glad that the records for Angela’s father-in-law have been saved. Documenting his dancing career with photos and articles will hopefully ensure his legacy will be preserved for future generations. The photographs and articles help to tell the whole story of Angela’s father-in-law’s life. We should all be collecting and documenting all aspects of our ancestors’ lives.
Photos and Newspaper Clippings, Houston County, TN. Archives
The first step in any records preservation project is digitization. Preserving the essence of these records by scanning them and saving them digitally is the highest form of records preservation, in my opinion. I recommend scanning each photo and document at 300 dpi and save in a TIFF format. This closely resembles the recommendations by archivists and how they digitize the records and photographs in their archives. Be sure to save your digital images in no less than three different places; on an external hard drive, upload to a cloud bases storage database and on thumb drives that you ask family members to keep in their homes or a safety deposit box.
Angela asked if she should throw the originals away after she scans them. I would encourage her to keep the originals and archive them. You can never replace originals and even though they are scanned, digital records can be lost, so it is always a good idea to keep the originals if possible.
My advice to Angela is to take the photos and articles and put them in an archival scrapbook type book. There are a couple of options to choose from:
O-Ring Preservation Box Album
- This archival album will work for both photographs and articles.
- The album is sits inside of an archival box so it can be stored on a bookshelf.
- The records will be encapsulated and also protected by a sturdy box.
O-Ring Preservation Box Album, Gaylord Archival
Archival Post Bound Scrapbook
- This archival scrapbook album will work for both the photographs and articles.
- A scrapbook style album is great for showing to family members and displaying on a coffee table.
- The photographs and articles will be encapsulated and protected by archival sleeves and a book type post binding.
Archival Post Bound Scrapbook, Gaylord Archival
These two options are the best ways to preserve the records that Angela has and they will store well or they can be displayed and shared without the fear of them being damaged by handling.
I would caution Angela to make sure the articles, if they are newspaper articles, not touch any other documents or photographs. Newsprint is very acidic and if newspaper clippings touch photographs or other documents, they will leave an orange stain on the records that cannot be removed. The articles should be places in their own archival sleeves separate from any other documents or photographs. The albums that I recommended above have individual pages to help facilitate putting articles and photographs in their own sleeve.
Lastly, when Angela stores these albums, I recommend storing them in a cool, dark and dry place. Temperature and humidity levels need to be at a consistent rate and not fluctuate. Keeping photographs, documents, these albums or scrapbooks out of the direct sunlight is also recommend as sunlight can be very damaging.
Preserving our ancestor’s records and photographs is the best thing we can do to preserving our ancestor’s lives.
* * *
If you have a question for The Archive Lady, please send them via email and I could use your archival question in an upcoming edition of The Archive Lady column. Melissa Barker, a.k.a. The Archive Lady E-Mail: email@example.com
Archival Materials Websites
- Gaylord Archival
- Hollinger Metal Edge
- University Products
- Light Impressions
- Archival Methods
- Print File Archival Storage
Melissa Barker’s Webinars and QuickGuides
Scrapbooks! Do you want to know how to find scrapbooks about your ancestors or do you have scrapbooks that you own and would like to know how to preserve them? Get my latest Legacy Family Tree Webinar and QuickGuide:
Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine
PDF Version: http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1413
You Can Now Follow The Archive Lady on Facebook
Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation.
©2021, copyright Melissa Barker. All rights Reserved.