Sunday, March 4, 2012

21COFH - Quick and Dirty Way to Start Organizing Photos - Week 10

In the pre-digital days, many of us, including our ancestors, took pictures with the good intentions of organizing them eventually. Then life got in the way and boxes or piles would accumulate. Sound familiar? My dad's parents were no different. So this week I'm going to do a quick and dirty sort of some pictures so that they can be worked with at a later date. The objective is to improve their storage conditions and begin to identify what you have on your hands.

Your selection for this week should be a group of photos you know just enough about to be able to work with. If you've got some old family photos and you've no idea whose faces are peering out, save them for later. I'm working with some early to mid 20th century photos from Dad's side of the family.

  1. Examine your pictures to get a feel for this mini collection. Try not to disturb the original order.You might consider photographing the box or pile as you remove the layers. Just a thought.
  2. Decide how they should be stored, and what materials you will need.
  3. Work through the box, envelopes or files and
    1. Re-folder or re-envelope them in archivally safe material.
    2. Make a note on the outside of the envelope as to the general subject(s) and time frame, if you know. When I'm the one drawing conclusions, I like to put "per MG" and the date for future reference. That piece of knowledge has come in handy on more than one occassion.
    3. If the envelope or box these items are in has writing/notes that might be clues, consider saving, photographing, or otherwise preserving the information.
  4. Make dividers for the new box you are putting the pictures in, if that makes sense to you.
  5. Label the outside of your new box.
  6. Don't forget to update your inventory with what you did this week or you will be wondering whatever happened to this box/pile of pictures. If you have to stop before you are done, make a note of where you are and what has been done on your inventory sheet. Also, put a copy of your note with the pictures you were working with. Tell yourself enough that you can pick the project back up at a later date.
  7. Finally, write a short descriptive paragraph for this group of pictures to go with your inventory. Also put a copy in the box of pictures.
Congratulations! You now have the start of some semblence of order so you can work with the pictures in more detail later. After you give yourself a pat on the back, tell us how your project went either in the comments or a post of your own. Be sure to leave the url in the comments section, if you write your own post.

I've been working on my project this weekend and am almost done. So check back tomorrow for my post.

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© 2012, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. Guess what I will be doing all summer once we get home??

    1. Hmmmmm....I give up. LOL

      I'll still be doing this come summer as well. There are A LOT of pictures around here. We can commiserate.

  2. I'm curious as to the need to keep the pictures in the original order if they are in a box? Did you get some clue as to why they were in that order? By date? Grouped together by person? Taking my own collections as an example... I have gone through the boxes so many times and removed 8-10 pictures at a time..for various reasons.. to show visiting relatives, to scan, to give to someone.. NOTHING is in the same place as last year. Do you mean one shouldn't mess up the ORIGINAL order that they were in WHEN you received them? Do you feel confident that no one has touched the pictures since they left the hands of the original owners?
    I am now horrified at the possible consequences of my actions. I received several small trunks and boxes of pictures, funeral books, Bibles, newspaper articles.. etc and have NOT kept anything in the original order.... like the "chain of evidence" rules. What to do?

    1. Keeping pictures or documents in their original order (when you obtained them) can give you clues as to when they were taken or obtained, who is in the pictures, who they belonged to. What might not seem important now could become important later on after you have learned more about the collection.

      I've done the same thing at times - mixed things up that is. Try not to panic (like I have done!) and just do the best you can going forward. If I have mixed a box up, I just try to make a brief comment in my notes, move on and try not to make the same mistake again :)