Is a picture worth a 1,000 words? Family photographs give a history of one’s family life. In the research center family files people have a variety of photographs, as well as albums. Family photographs such as the ones sent in Christmas cards are very informative as they give an example of the changes that take place in ones family over the years. A new son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or grandchildren are examples.
For about one minute of a person’s time, the pertinent information such as person’s name, parents’ names, event, and the year can be written on the back of a photograph. Wedding, graduation, Christmas, or family photographs have greater meaning when the history of who, what, when, and where is recorded on the backside. When recording this information use a number two pencil. It prevents bleed through, allows for corrections, and doesn’t mark the photograph behind it if one is stacking photographs.
Many photographs come into the historical society without any information. It can take many hours to find the information necessary for this type of photograph. Often no one knows who is in a photograph. This causes the photograph to lose all historic value. How often have you gone through photographs your parents/grandparents have collected and not known anything about the people in the picture, much less their names? Take the time and put the history on the photograph!
How we care for our photographs is just as important. Regular photograph care has dramatically changed with the advent of memory books and the use of acid-free materials. What about those old albums that are passed down from your mother or grandmother? Many have black pages with picture corners holding the photos in place. Respect these albums as they are the history of the compiler and are usually done in chronological order. Interleafing the pages with an acid free paper will help to prevent bleed from photographs on one page to the opposite page. Be aware that it may cause the album to be too thick so use sparingly.
The one album that does need to be taken apart is the “magnetic: or self-adhesive album. These albums destroy the contents. When working with photograph albums remember they usually tell a story so always copy the pages prior to transferring the photographs into a new archival album. Call RCHS if you need instructions on how to remove the photographs from a self-adhesive album.
Framed photographs are subject to fading when placed on a wall. The matting may be harmful if it is not acid-free. Moisture may collect between the glass and the photograph if it is not matted causing the photograph to be ruined.
With digital photography becoming so popular, one needs to be aware that compact disks may only have a storage life of ten years, although they say seventy-five. Imagine the frustration one would feel if after ten years you put a CD in your computer, only to find the files are gone. Be sure to check your CDs several times a year, and transfer to a new CD periodically. The low cost of a new CD, surpasses the value of lost photographs. Storing CDs in a cool place also increases longevity. Have a backup plan for the photographs on your computer.
The Roseau County Historical Society family files are a wonderful place for your family photographs. We use archival materials to preserve all photographs and place them in archival boxes. Your photographs can be scanned for our collection and for your personal use. Perhaps you may wish to send us a disk of your family photographs for a family file. Just remember to include the historic who, what, where, and when on the back of the photographs, this is what makes a picture worth a 1,000 words.
Please consider sending the historical society your family Christmas photograph for your file, remembering to label them. To see an example of a family file or learn how to have one in the research center stop in.
See the following article for more information about family files: Family Files