I admit I am guilty of hoarding photographs. I think, as a genealogist, I have a tendency to feel our history may not be passed on if left to other family members. Not all family members share the same interest or see the importance of retaining old photos. Recently a regular customer came to me distraught. This woman had spent a lot of time and money restoring and archiving her family photographs only to lose them in a house fire. For the most part the loss was unrecoverable as many of the photos had not been stored or distributed elsewhere. This loss really made me think, are my photos safe? Will they be available to future generations?
It becomes immediately obvious that the preservation of these precious memories requires more than proper storage. Photographs need to be deposited in more than one place to ensure they are available to future generations. Make extra copies of photographs and/or CDs, taking care to store them in archival albums or boxes. It is a good idea to have all images scanned to CD. This a good practice for images that are fading or deteriorating even if you do not plan to do restoration work. Scanning an image to CD preserves the image in its current state while the original may continue to deteriorate. I have boxes of photos in varying states of deterioration that I would like to restore. Lack of time and money has prevented me from doing so, but scanning the photos has bought me time. Don't forget to scan the handwriting on the back of the photos as well; this is often overlooked. After making additional copies of your photographs SHARE THEM! Give copies of your photographs and CDs to those you trust to safeguard your memories. Check with local museums and libraries; they may also be interested in your photographs, especially those depicting local history or scenes. The very least you should do is to store CD copies as well as negatives in a safe deposit box. In the event of a tragedy you will be able to make copies of lost photos.
In order to share your history with future generations you need to do more than just archive your photographs. You need to make sure your photographs or copies will still exist. As genealogists, the purpose of our work is to connect family and preserve our history. Share, copy and distribute your work and photographs to insure against tragedy and protect their longevity. Your future generations will be glad you did!