One of the most important things in family history is preserving old photos and documents for future generations. Especially old black and white photos taken over a hundred years ago. The best approach in my opinion is to put them anywhere you can online and buy some decent archival storage for the originals. The steps I have taken to preserve my family photos are listed below.
Step 1 – Digitize them to a high standard.
The very first thing you’ll want to do is scan EVERYTHING at a high resolution. I’ve written another post outlining exactly how to do this which can be found here, but the general jist is that you should scan at 600DPI using the TIFF File format as it does not compress photos which other formats do (This causes minor details to be lost).
If you don’t have a scanner there will be somewhere locally that will be able to scan them for you to professional standard.
Step 2 – Save Them Online
External Hard Drive
Scanning at this size will take up quite a bit of memory on your PC so ideally you want to buy an External Hardrive. These have become very affordable in the last decade for the amount of storage you get. A cheap 500MB Hardrive can easily hold tens of thousands of high resolution photos.
Cloud storage is where you keep all of your files on servers through either a website or other host. This is an extremely reliable way of storing data, providing you put it in more than one place. Personally I use a combination of Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive.
Dropbox offer free accounts with 2GB of storage with the options to increase by inviting friends and doing other things. As well as a flat 1000GB plan for £7.99 which is what I have as I use my Dropbox for all of my files too.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s free cloud service. Currently they offer 5GB Free, 50GB for £5.99 and 1TB for £7.99 it’s also linked to your Microsoft account. A combination of these two will be enough to keep all of your data safe and secure.
Online Photo Storage
There are other sites which are dedicated to photo storage and sharing. Adding photos to these as well as sharing them with family members will increase the likelihood of saving them for future generations on different branches of the tree.
Flickr offers 1TB of photo storage for free. Its also really easy to add different albums and invite friends and family to comment on individual photos. I use this by making one large album with everything in then sub-albums for each Surname I have photos of.
Photobucket is another site that offers a free 2GB plan as well as quite a few tiered plans ranging from 22GB to 502GB. I don’t personally use this option but it’s definitely worth looking at.
Step 3 – Archival Storage For Originals
Most people end up preserving old photos in a shoe box or standard photo album and then putting it somewhere in an attic/loft or basement and leaving it for years undisturbed. Or so you would think, these places are often damp and the temperature fluctuates a lot which encourages spores to grow and glues and plastics to erode which can be detrimental to old photos. The best place to store archival boxes is in a cool dry place like a cupboard in a damp free room of the house.
Everything that you have that comes in to contact with your photos should be acid free and of archival quality. You can get binders and archival boxes for all sizes. For photos I have one binder which has acid free plastic sleeves of varying types, different sleeves can hold different sized photos. These should also be backed using archival acid free backing paper.
Binders & Sleeves