Friday, July 3, 2009

Treasure your Photographs

At a recent family function, my grandmother arrived with a photo album in her hands. She handed it to me and told me to take a look. I opened it to find old family photos. One of my great grandfather and his friends on the day he graduated from Boys High School in New Orleans around the turn of the last century, as well as Confirmation photos of Aunts and Uncles. There was also an old photo of my great great great grandmother.
This was a real eye opener for me because my grandmother (as well as most of the rest of my family) was completely wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. According to her, she had lost all of her old photos. Because of this, I never thought to ask her, four years later, if she had been able to recover any of them. As it turned out, she had been able to salvage a dozen out of hundreds. Yet that was enough to make me happy.

"Why didn't you tell me about this!" I exclaimed. "Well," she said, "I didn't think you would care about an old picture of someone like my Aunt Ida..." I could have knocked her over the head, figuratively speaking of course. I explained to her that, as a genealogist, all of these things are important to me. They all provide clues and connections to the past. Then came the argument...the photos were faded and damaged. I insisted they be restored. She insisted it was too costly. Finally, I agreed to take the photos and pay to have them restored.

What is interesting about this is that my grandmother will painstakingly restore and old piece of furniture that is a "family heirloom" or have a painting restored without question, and yet these snapshots of the past are not valuable to her. I have ceased to attempt reasoning as to why this is.

I have many other family photos from other members of the family. Each is a treasure unto itself. I copy them, catalog them, display them and store them. I intend to do the same with my grandmother's photos. In this day, when technology can go beyond the damage of an old photo, there is not excuse not to have them restored. I encourage everyone to do this. There are many companies out there that will do the restoration or repair for you for varying prices. In addition, it is not out of the question for some to digitize them yourself if they are not in need of repair.

Please do this. Family photographs are just as much an "heirloom", in a sense, as a piece of furniture, clothing, or linens. Go on the web to sites such as
or ask around your community. In addition, some places such as Walgreens do some restorative work on photos.
Take care of them! In some cases, it is all that was left behind.

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