I’m in the process of sorting out three photo albums simultaneously.
After my Dad passed away earlier this Spring we looked for photos of him in his younger days to add to a slideshow for the funeral day. It was at that point that three photo albums came to light that I don’t remember ever having seen before and which I believe came from his parents’ house.
We found some great photos of Dad as a child and as a young man to scan and add to the slideshow, but subsequently I have felt compelled to take all the photos out of the albums. Why? Well they are the type that was so hi-tec back in the seventies – the slightly waxy pages and the film that you smooth back over the photos – but which have subsequently been discovered to be disastrous for the preservation of photos. The chemicals in the PVC film can damage photos irreparably, so I decided it was best to order an acid free album and to transfer them over.
I suspect that it was my Nan who stuck the photos in. But what is odd is that the photos are apparently put in randomly – photos from the 1930s all mixed up with those from the 1970s. It was as if she had kept photos in a shoebox, was given the albums, and then just stuck them in as they came out of the box. It’s very strange.
Sorting out a whole load of unlabelled photos into some sort of chronological order would be bad enough, but – horror of horrors – for some reason best known to herself, my Nan put sellotape over a good number of the photos when sticking them in. Arghhhh. Why would you do that?!!
Where the sellotape has come off the photos it has left a sticky residue, so I’ve decided that where possible I’ll leave the sellotape on and just trim at the edges. Where the photos are reluctant to come away from the pages I am using dental floss – gently sliding it under the photo and easing it away from the page. That’s a tip I learnt when I started scrapbooking and it works a treat.
So gradually I am removing the photos, and temporarily putting them into envelopes for different decades according to my best guess. It’s a fun, if time-consuming exercise, as I catch once more glimpses of my Grandad’s garden and images of cars, pets and furniture long-gone, but which bring back memories of weekly visits to my Wakefield grandparents after school back in the late sixties/early seventies and Christmas tea with the ubiquitous but distasteful celery and beetroot.
Faded photos are rejuvenating faded memories, but I hope that my efforts to preserve the photos now will ensure the memories live on.
(The Institute of Conservation has a very helpful factsheet on care of photos at https://icon.org.uk/system/files/documents/care_and_conservation_of_photographs.pdf )