Are you starting a photo scanning project and looking for a little direction? This blog is for you.
My first family photo scanning project began in 2013 when I was gifted/ entrusted/ encumbered with digitizing the 4 packed apple crates that comprised my grandparents’ photo collection. Since then I’ve been entrusted with 3 more family photo scanning projects and I am amassing what is beginning to feel like a personal archive.
This blog is organized in order of the issues you’ll encounter: the very beginning, the problems that will come up, and what to do with all your hard work once you’re done.
My story about the first photo scanning project: The family picture scanning project: how I digitized 3000 images in my spare time.
Problem #1: sorting
When we packed up my grandmother’s things, we were more focused on efficiency and speed than preserving archival order. In this post, I talk about how I was able to use batch sorting techniques to help me identify thousands of undated photos.
Problem #2 – scanner settings
See: Behind the scenes – my scanning setup. In this post, I take you through everything from hardware and DPI settings to naming conventions.
I have a maxim: when starting something new, don’t reinvent the wheel. Someone, somewhere knows a lot about this and has done it before. Check out Curtis Bisel’s blog Scan Your Entire Life, and read Q&As in the Facebook group Technology for Genealogy. That’s where I met Art Taylor of the Ontario Genealogical Society. Thanks to Curt and Art, I developed my own system.
Problem #3 – needing a faster scanner
After spending 2.5 years carefully scanning all the fragile photos, the negatives, and the oddly mounted photos, I had about 5000 larger printed photos left over. At the rate I was scanning on the flatbed, it would be years more of spending every weekend scanning until I was done. There comes a time when you need to decide what’s more imporant: time or money. Investing in a high-speed scanner had 4 main benefits: i) I was able to complete the project; ii) I had time to process the images; iii) I cleared the deck for the next project; and iv) it was fun to watch photos zipping through at 1-2 seconds/piece.
Can you sum it up in a list?
What to do with all the scans
Once you scan the photos, anything is possible. Let your imagination run wild: slide show for the next family reunion? Newsletter? Book? PowerPoint? Movie? Blog? Please do something with all your hard work.
I cannot overemphasize how rewarding this journey has been.
With a personal archive at my disposal, I’ve made genealogical discoveries that would not otherwise have been possible, helped others in the communities of family history and genealogy, and contributed to books and archives. The collection has opened conversations amongst family members from my nuclear family to the most distant cousins, encouraged members of the Chinese diaspora to reach out, and sparked discoveries in communities around the world.
My stories about Dick’s time in WWII as a member of Force 136, about Lily’s time as a Rosie the Riveter, and about finding my uncle Yim were informed and expanded by the photos I’d so carefully scanned and archived. I’ve worked with authors such as John Adams and John Burwood, and contributed a photo for the Yucho Chow book by Catherine Clement. More recently I’ve been working on a project to contribute Chinese Canadian photos to Wikipedia for the preservation of our collective history.
More personally, I simply love having faces in my genealogy programs.
Thank you to my family for entrusting me with scanning the family photos. Thank you to everyone who has given so generously of their time and expertise in helping me with the nunances of scanning formats and software. Thank you to the members of the Facebook groups Chinese Community of Victoria BC and Genealogy for Asian Canadians.
And thank you to readers Art, Paul, Chris, and Diane, for asking me about scanning.