As I noted in an earlier post, snapshots are visual portals to our past. I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately visiting some of my family’s visual portals.
In conjunction with my parents’ move from a house to an apartment, I’ve come into temporary possession of a significant portion of the family archives, including hundreds of photos and slides dating back to the early 20th century.
It’s been an absolute delight, reviving memories of long-forgotten events and people. Fortunately for me, I’ve still got my parents and brothers available to fill in some of the gaps where my own recollections come up a bit short. Eventually, I intend to distribute the scanned electronic images of the cache far and wide throughout my own family tree in hopes of learning even more.
The central people and events captured on film are valuable enough in themselves, but it’s what’s lurking in the background that makes them priceless to a family historian. That old sled supporting a long-gone ice chest. That tree you used to climb before it was felled decades ago. That gravel road before it was paved in your youth. It’s these bonus details that help put photos into a personal, historical context.
But dealing with a windfall of riches like a box of family photos can be a daunting task. How do you know what to keep? How do you organize and store it? Sally Jacobs, aka The Practical Archivist, has some tips on deciding what to keep. (Hint: When in doubt, throw it out). Guest poster Kim O’Neill Screen over at Shades of the Departed has some great ideas on how to effectively display your photos. In this digital age it’s easier than ever to share photos, as they show at Photo Sharing Blog.
Emotional connections often complicate and sometimes paralyze the sorting process. If this is true for you, consider using someone without those emotional connections, such as a professional personal historian, to make the hard choices for you.
Larry Lehmer is a personal historian who helps people preserve their family histories. To learn more, visit his web site or send him an e-mail.
Photo: Determined Larry Lehmer prepares for a big 1959 baseball game (Courtesy of Larry Lehmer)