covered now with lines and traces . . .” Yeah, you remember the old song (“Traces”) – how many of us still confine those historical photographs to magnetic, un-archival albums or boxes that aren’t meant for long term storage or in damp or extremely hot conditions? What about all those documents – birth & death records, old letters, diaries, or other items? Before your photographs and documents start to fade, yellow, or crumble please do several things to preserve them.
- Scan them and save them to removable storage (disc, flash drive, something) and then save them again. Keep one removable storage device someplace else like your safety deposit box. If a fire swept through your home or heaven forbid, another Katrina hits, maybe at least one of your storage devices will survive long after the original documents have been destroyed.
- Copy them – the old fashioned way. Then when you attend family reunions or travel to a Family History Center (FHC) or a NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) location, a library or a distant location where your ancestors lived, you have the copy to take with you in order to compare facts. Never take Original documents with you when doing research. Anything can happen between point A and point B.
- Transcribe them – if you have been lucky enough to inherit or “find” old letters or diaries, do your best to transcribe – grammatical and spelling errors and all – these gold mines of information. If your great-grandmother wrote about traveling from the mid-west to California, it’s so much easier to have a transcribed, computerized version up in one window of your computer while you are researching migration routes, towns on their way, etc. then trying to hold open a very delicate and old book while doing your googling.
- Scan them, copy them, and transcribe them! Then make sure the originals are somewhere safe – not in the hot attic or dampy and moldy basement. Unless your attic is temperature controlled and your basement has been “finished out”, is temperature controlled and the storage container meets all archival and pH requirements for holding papers. And please don’t mix photographs and newsprint. The acid and wood fibers (lignin) in the old newspapers could damage your photographs. And please don’t subject your photographs – especially tintypes or daurraguetypes to harsh sunlight.