Finlay Family Genealogy

Finding Our Ancestors, and Sharing Their Stories

Slow but Steady Photo Archiving

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Back in March of this year, I wrote about starting a photo archiving project with the extensive collection I have inherited. Seven months later, I would like to report on my modest progress. Getting started was challenging because I had to figure out the process I would follow to get to my final goal: each photo would be digitized, analyzed, cited, distributed to several online trees, hard drives, and cloud locations, and finally placed in an archival box with a corresponding catalog. The first few batches of photos I processed were really my test batches to help me figure out all the kinks in my system. In fact, I still need to go back and re-do or finish some of those early batches. My system finally feels smooth and I am making slow, but steady progress. Here is a look at my photo archiving process:

1. Selecting 4-6 photos in a batch, I digitize them using a Shotbox and my iPhone. I try to photograph them in a way that minimizes the need to crop or manipulate the photo, to keep it the highest quality possible.

2. Create an Evernote note for the photo, adding a copy of the photo and a citation and photo analysis template. After I analyze the photo, I create the citation. (The image below shows only part of the analysis form, I based my analysis template off several books and online sources I read, including the writings of Maureen Taylor.) Having these copies of the photos and info about them all together on Evernote is handy as a reference on its own, but it is a great tool to help distribute and preserve them as well.

3. A newer addition to my process is a checklist for each photo on Trello. This helps me keep track of where I am for each photo, and which steps I still need to complete. It has eliminated some of the accidental partial-processing I did on the first few batches of photos. I created a master copy of the 16-step-checklist I want to complete for each photo. When I start a new batch, I make a copy of this master checklist for each photo, add a copy of the photo to the card for visual reference, and use the checklist as I go. I delete the card when the photo is archived.

Trello cards for tracking photo processing

Trello checklist for each photo

4. As caretaker of such a large collection of family history photos, I feel a keen obligation to share the photos online so other descendants can find them and enjoy them too. For this reason, once my citation is prepared, I upload the photos to my trees at FamilySearch, Ancestry, and right here at FinlayFamily. I also share them on Flickr (which doubles as a backup). I back up the digital photos at Google photos, a home computer and external hard drive. I certainly hope that 8+ copies of each photo distributed about will help in its preservation.

5. Finally I label the physical photo as needed (with an archival pen, of course), add it to the properly sized archival box, and add a thumbnail photo and citation to that box’s catalog. I have numbered my boxes in a way that is expandable, as I am not sure exactly how many boxes my collection will fill. I have numbered them for the size they fit, so a box for 4×6 inch photos is Box 46-001, etc. For the smaller size photos, I have also split them by family: my family photos are in box 46-001, my husband’s family photos are in box 46-002.

The numbered archival boxes

Notice that for the inventory for box 911-011, I have made a note to myself that the Laura Bell Wilson family photo was in that box, but not properly processed. Yes! I came across that today when I added another photo to that box. Thus the addition of the Trello checklists. I obviously still have some steps I have missed along the way. But, to eat this elephant, this very important photo archiving project, I must eat it one bite at a time. So, I will continue to work slowly but steadily and will eventually have a wonderfully organized, archived, and distributed family history photo collection. 

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