Organizing Old Photographs
How To Efficiently Organize Those Old Photos In Your Free Time
We have about a dozen plastic bins containing photos that my husband inherited after four family members passed away in the span of a few years. When we inherited these photos, we did an initial sort, placing photos of his mom’s family in one bin, his dad’s family in another, his uncle’s family in another, and so on.
Thanks to COVID-19, our weekend schedules have slowed down and I suggested he start tackling the photos. Like many of my clients, he asked, “Where do I start”?
Here’s what I told him:
- Do a preliminary sort of photos to Keep/Discard/Share.
- Keep photos that are meaningful to you.
- If you or your family members are unable to identify the people, place, or events in a photo, then discard the photo… unless it’s really interesting to you and serves as an important reference in time.
- Discard duplicates.
- Perhaps there are photos you don’t necessarily want to keep, but a friend or another family member may enjoy keeping, or want to see, before they’re discarded.
- If the photos you are keeping currently have no identification or descriptors on them, now is the time to mark them to ensure that future generations understand the significance or know who and what they are looking at.
- Whether you’re organizing digital or physical photographs, I recommend organizing vacation photographs by destination, not date. We often remember where we went, before remembering when we went.
- Once you have narrowed down your photos and categorized them, it’s time to decide how you will maintain them. Some options are:
- A traditional photo album
- Digitize the photos and then create a photo book using an app like Shutterfly, where you upload your photos and then create a book that will be printed and mailed to you.
- Digitize photos and create a digital album on your computer.
- Store photos in boxes for family archives.
- A combination of all of the above. It’s perfectly normal to want a variety based on how you anticipate referring to the photos in the future.
- If storing in boxes, I recommend storing them in a safe, dry, pest-free and moisture-free place in your home. If you’ve deemed them special enough to keep, then consider using archival envelopes and boxes designed specifically for photo storage – good storage products are typically acid and lignin free.
- Remember, you are not responsible for keeping vacation photos that belonged to a late loved one. They were someone else’s memories, not your own.
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