Photo by Lindy Baker on Unsplash
The digital era we are in comes with an unimaginable number of tools to preserve your treasured memories. Preserving your memories not only helps ensure they can be passed on to the next generations, it allows you to free up physical space around you, and organize them in a meaningful way that makes them even more accessible.
The first tip: Digitize your analog photos and keepsakes.
If you have a smartphone, the fastest and easiest way to do this is by using your phone’s camera to snap a photo of the picture that you can then upload to your computer. You can also use a scanner if you have the hardware. A flatbed scanner would likely work best, depending on the size of the photo or document. Automatic feed scanners are not suitable for fragile, weak or valuable papers. You should not just limit it to photos either. Capture images of marriage records, birth records, family Bibles, your children’s old school projects. Digitizing these records allows you to view and share the items without the risk of damage by handling.
The second tip: Find a service to preserve old photo slides and negatives.
Some services allow you to ship boxes to them for preservation, others will drive to your home and digitize everything for you there.
Third tip: Organize and name your digitized files.
When naming your files, feel free to use any alpha-numeric combination that makes sense to you, but avoid using spaces, punctuation marks or symbols (try using hyphens or underscores instead of spaces). While naming your files, it is a good idea to add basic metadata to the file if you can, such as the date the picture was taken, who was in it, what was happening then etc. Adding metadata is akin to writing on the back of a photograph:
The metadata of old photographs. Image courtesy of the Cloyne and District Historical Society via the CDHS Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cdhs/
Digital cameras and smartphones will capture and apply some metadata automatically, such as the date the photo was taken, file size and type. If you capture a photo with a smartphone it can even include the location of the photo (if you have that feature enabled.)
There are many ways to add metadata yourself, including software such as Adobe Photoshop or Picasa. Picasa is a great place to begin if you are just getting started with digitally archiving your records.
Fourth tip: Back up your digitized files.
When it comes to preserving the digitized files of your memories, the National Archives recommends you follow the 3-2-1 Rule, which stands for three copies, stored on two different media, and one copy located offsite. The concept was popularized by Peter Krogh, a well-known photographer who wrote that there are two groups of people: those who have already had a storage failure and those who will have on in the future. One easy way to apply this rule is by having your data stored on your computer (copy one), with a regular on-site back-up either through your network or removable media storage device (copy two), and in the cloud (copy three). The cloud back-up serves the multi-purpose of being a third copy, on a different media, and off-site. There are a lot of cloud media storage services out there. One popular one to try (especially if you are an Amazon Prime member) is Amazon’s Prime Photos.
Fifth tip: Share your preserved memories.
There are several great ways to share your memories with the people you care about and future generations. You can easily share prints of your photos (whether manually digitized by you or captured with a digital camera or smart phone.) There are a ton of services that will send physical photo prints to anyone you want with a few finger taps or mouse clicks.
If you use an Android or iOS phone, you may want to check out the FreePrints App, a print and delivery service that will allow you to print up and send a certain number of photos every month, and all you pay is shipping. There is no subscription or commitment required, and the more you use it, the more additional freebies you get. The free photo offer will print 4x6 photos with a matte or glossy finish. You can pay to upgrade to a larger size or unlock offers for a free 5x7 after a certain number of uses. It is very easy to capture and print photos from social media or any other photo-sharing site. You simply save or download the photo to your phone, the app connects to your photos and you tap the ones you want printed. Then tell it where you want the photos to go and pay for the shipping and you’re done. No more driving to stores and waiting for prints. Prime photos, mentioned earlier, will also print and deliver photos for you. They will charge $0.09/print for a 4x6 photo, but the shipping is free for Amazon Prime subscribers, which makes the cost about the same as the FreePrints App.
Another way of sharing the memories is through photo books, which can be created easily through many print websites. If you have taken a once-in-a-lifetime trip, a photo book makes a great keepsake. If you have digitized your parents’ and grandparents’ photos and records, compiling them into a book with captions and sharing some of the stories behind the documents and images is a great way to preserve and share your history. It tells the story long after you are gone, and can easily be stored on bookshelves and passed down to the next generation.
Keep in mind the oft-quoted concept, when an old person dies, it is as if a library is burned down. It is easy, and usually pretty fun, to preserve your history – your library – for future generations.