Scanning, negatives, labeling, storage, and journals

Properly preserving, labeling, storing and more


Photos take a lot of time to scan and label. Some are quite large and cannot be easily scanned. My photography skills come into play here–or lack thereof–and this can be a challenge. I’ve managed to take photos with my cell phone of most of the larger, awkward photos which I then upload, organize, and label.

Here are a few fun sites for ideas and help with scanning.

A very good, general article offering options for scanning:

This shows how to create a photo book after scanning old photos:

This is an article about scanning, and discusses the free photo app in Google:

Digitizing photos from the Family Search blog:

Digitize your collection

This site offers a way to digitize your collection; they do it for you. A cost is involved, but it may be worth your consideration depending on your collection.

I don’t know anyone as yet who has tried this site. It’s here as another option only.


Negatives can also be scanned and converted to an image within the computer. In the links below, you will find several types of scanners available (no affiliation; I’m simply providing information). Check your cell phone; some settings may help with conversion. The quality using cell phones can be iffy, so here are a few other options for help. Some involve buying equipment.


On the computer

I learned about photo labeling and organization on my computer the hard way. Now, when I stick with a specific labeling formula, I stay out of trouble, and finding a photo later is a piece of cake. Order however you like; I generally stick with an arrangement such as the following.

Surname_first name_year_location_others in the photo_type of document_shared by whom.

Example: Geier_Bertha_1920_Kansas_Carl and Benny_US census_JFJenson

On the photo

For labeling photos, place a sticky note on a piece of acid free paper accompanying your photo, not on the photo itself. Or, use acid free paper for notes. We don’t want to risk the long-term effect the sticky on the back of a sticky note might have on old photo paper. It’s best to keep our notes with the photo, not on the photo.


Storing photos has been a challenge. We have enough photos and albums–from just the Butterfield side–to fill two large, Rubbermaid tubs. I quickly realized how well these tubs hold photos, but I am not certain how well they preserve old photo paper and protect from moisture.

When researching: For now, while actively researching, my photos are in tubs.

When storing: Later, when I am finished with a photo or document, the type of  storage needs to be considered for how to properly preserve and store old papers. Various types of files, folders, and boxes can be purchased for storing old photos and documents.

This link from the National Archives offers excellent explanations about storage, materials, and what to use and not to use.

Using Google, a simple search for “archival storage boxes” will bring up several retail stores that sell safe storage products.

This link will take you to an easy explanation of how to store old letters in four steps: OLD LETTERS

Consider donating

As mentioned, there are hundreds of letters in our collection(s). There will come a time when someone will need to decide what to do with letters written by “ancestors,” but people, nonetheless, my children don’t know. My 89-year-old mother wholeheartedly agrees donation is something we should consider. She feels the same about her grandmother’s brown, taffeta 1896 wedding dress.

Our large collection of letters written by great grandma Orah will be donated to the historical society in the town where Orah last lived. We have not yet decided on the SMITH LETTERS.

Journals, Notebooks, Spirals? Long or short stories?

In spite of current technological offerings, many people–especially older adults–may feel more at ease keeping a paper journal. If they are comfortable using a computer, that’s fabulous. Many elderly people, however, may not have access to a computer.

For those willing to use current technology, there are software programs older adults may find useful (and not overly difficult. I’ve only used these three):

  • Google Docs
  • Microsoft Word
  • Evernote

This link offers a list of 15 web writing applications:

Short stories and memories

Encouraging older family members to write down stories and memories is a great and easy way to preserve family history. Try to honor whichever method they prefer to record their stories; your notes can be transcribed later. The upside to long hand is it records this person’s handwriting and meets the goal of telling their story.

Consider a memoir

Many seniors love to write; after all, this was their go-to method of communication and for many, still is. The Institute on Aging (IoA) offers a fantastic article on how to encourage seniors to write their life story.

A memoir might seem like a daunting task, but some seniors–who may love something new to fill their days–might appreciate the challenge. If not, a few short stories are better than nothing.

Happy Profiling! ❤

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