preserving heritage photos
GOT HERITAGE PHOTOS?
Oh man. Talk about an overwhelming topic for so many, right? One of our amazing customers, Laura Hager in Phoenix, has recently tackled her heritage photos. She made a plan and took notes and photos along the way. Laura has graciously offered to share all of this with you today! Get ready to be inspired. I totally am!
A few years ago, I saw a blog about revamping family photo albums and I’ve been dreaming about redoing my family’s albums ever since. I’d been trying to find traditional photo albums that were simple and high quality, but there weren’t a lot of options and the quality just wasn’t what I was hoping for. I realized my scrapbooking pocket pages from Project Life were archival and I finally knew how I would make my albums!
I knew this would be a big project. I’m redoing all the albums and photos my parents have, so I have multiple families and generations to organize. I had to think of how I wanted to organize all these photos before getting them into the albums. I’m trying to do this all in one go without need to edit or redo the albums later. I decided to break down my albums into three main sections: old photos (basically before me photos), my baby and kid photos, and digital camera photos.
My old photos category is a big one. My grandma was very nice and gave me 5 big boxes of family photos, so my old photos have my great grandma, my grandma, my parents as kids, and my parents before kids. This section is going to get divided even further into my mom’s side, my dad’s side, and my parents after getting married. All of these photos are film.
The second category is my baby and kid photos. My baby and kid photos were still taken with film. My mom put these photos into magnetic style (the sticky pages) albums. These pages seem like a good idea because they can hold photos of different sizes at different directions, but they aren’t acid free. My baby photos have started fading, so I wanted to pull them out of these pages.
The last section is my digital photos. Since my family started using digital photos (around age 12 for me), we haven’t printed any photos. The old albums we do have together are scattered all over the house. Some are in boxes at the back of closets. Some are falling apart. And some are not acid free so they are causing damage to the photos. This is not how I want my photos to live.
When I dream about my family’s albums, they are all clean and archival, in matching albums, and are lining the shelf with tags on the binding. Now that I have my album categories and my vision for my albums, it’s time to get to work!
One main reason I started this project was to scan in the original film photos into digital files. If anything were to happen to our physical photos, they would be gone forever. I knew I wanted to scan them all in so we could have them digitally and backed up on multiple hard drives. Scanning them in was my first step. I use a Canon scanner and scan one photograph in at a time. It’s time consuming, but so worth it! There are companies that digitize photos, but I knew with the volume of photos I have that it would cost too much for this project. When I scan in the photo, I double check how the photo scanned in and add any details to the file that I can. It takes some time, but I have scanned in almost 3,000 family photos!
Sorting the Photos
Once the photos were scanned, I started to sort them into piles by the date. Some of the photos have the date written on the back, but many do not. My grandma was so nice and came over to help me sort out a bunch of the photos into their piles by dates. The dates are so important to me and help me know where to put them in the albums. I’m going to use a date stamp and StazOn Ink (it’s archival!) to add the dates to the photos without the date. I didn’t want to make marks with pens or ruin the back with my handwriting, so I’m using a date stamp to add the date. Once the photos are sorted into piles by the album and the dates, it’s time to get them into the albums!
For my baby photos, I had to peel them out of the magnetic pages (they are called magnetic but are just sticky paper and plastic covers). My mom already had them in order, so I put them in a stack in order as I took them out of the album. I scanned them in the same order too.
The digital pictures were easier to sort because they have the date within the file. I just had to figure out which photos I wanted to print and put them into folders by the year.
Putting the Photos into Pocket Pages
What I love about using the Project Life products is that I can use the same album and have different size pocket pages within the album. For my project, I’m using white 12×12 albums, Design C, Design L, Design P, and 12×12 page protectors.
For the old photos, finding the right size pocket page can be tricky. I look at the photos within the year I’m working on and see what page design works best for that group of photos. For large portraits, I used photo corners and 12×12 paper to put it into a 12×12 page protector. Many of the old photos are small and can fit into the 4×4 squares of the Design P pages. I used white archival cardstock in the pocket and then added the photo. Some of the old photos need the large pockets of Design C or Design L, which I also back with white cardstock.
My baby photos are mostly 4×6, so I put them into the Design C pocket pages. If a photo is smaller than 4×6, I back it with white cardstock.
My digital photos that I’m having printed will easily fit into the 4×6 pocket pages.
I love that I can get all the photos into pockets by finding the best size. If the pocket is bigger than the photo, I use archival photo corners to hold it in place. It’s such a cool mix of modern albums with the vintage photo corner look.
Finishing the Albums
As I fill out the pages, I put them in their correct albums. My album list includes Mom’s side, Dad’s side, Mom and Dad before kids, kids, and digital photos. Once I have all my albums finished, I’ll be printing tags to add to the binding with an initial of the family’s last name and the dates within the album. For example, my dad’s side of the albums will have an “H” and the year within the albums. I can’t wait to see the matching albums all sitting in order on the shelf.
My family is excited about this project because I’m making the albums and photos easier to enjoy. Digitizing them by scanning them in is also very helpful because I can share them with family out of state and everyone can enjoy a copy.
Tips for This Project
Start with a plan. Don’t start getting out all the photos until you know exactly what you want to do. Start with a definite plan before beginning. Remember, you can adapt your idea as you go. Pulling out multiple albums and stacks of photos all at once is extremely overwhelming! Start with your plan for the project before diving in.
Scan in your photos. It can be time consuming or a bit costly, but scanning in your photos is very important in helping preserve them. Once they are scanned in, you can share them with family out of state, upload them to family history websites, edit them to restore the original color, or print them out to hang on the wall. I recommend scanning them before putting them in the albums so you don’t have to take them all out again.
Have a clean work space. The photos are just paper, so any food, drinks, and oil can ruin them. I had a few photos (luckily duplicates) that got ruined by furniture polish that was on the table I was working on. I recommend starting with a clean space and putting down a clean sheet to work on. Coffee can make the project more fun, but make sure it isn’t anywhere near your photos.
Use a typewriter to add names and dates. I get really nervous about making a mistake or spelling something wrong when I start to use my handwriting on a page. I decided it would be easier for me to just use my parents’ old typewriter to add these details. I love how clean it looks and how easy it is to read. I’ll be adding the names of all the people in the photos and the dates to the white cardstock behind the photos. If you aren’t comfortable using your handwriting, use a typewriter or computer to print out your text.
Throw an album party. As soon as I’m 100% done with my project, I’m going to have a little album party to show off my albums to the family. If you’ve done all the work, you deserve to show them off a bit! Invite your family over for dinner and everyone can flip through your new albums. I can’t wait to see how excited they are over the new family albums!
Laura Hager lives in Phoenix, AZ with her fiancé and their small dog, Astro. She loves working on all kinds of fun projects. Some of her current projects are building an urban garden at her home, planning a wedding, and getting caught up on her scrapbooks. You can see more of her projects on her blog at Laurel and Fern or visit her Instagram.