Author Topic: Antique family photos: What to do?  (Read 7147 times)

lizzzi

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Antique family photos: What to do?
« on: March 05, 2014, 12:09:20 PM »
Help--following deaths in the family, I've ended up with four large, antique baby pictures of long-dead relatives and in-laws. They are so sweet, and I couldn't imagine passing them along to a junque store so sometime could purchase "instant ancestors." But none of us alive today want or have room for them. I'm a minimalist, and good at not accumulating "stuff", but this one has me stumped. What do other Mustachians do?

Spork

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2014, 12:18:06 PM »

If you have a scanner (or access to one), scan them.  Scan them at very high dpi and store them electronically. 

swick

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 12:20:29 PM »
Scanning was my first thought, otherwise if you are artsy at all you could easily work them into an art piece and create something awesome that you'd want to keep

MissStache

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2014, 12:21:27 PM »
I would 2nd scanning them! 

And then I would sell them.  Depending on how old they are or how unique they are, you may be able to get a fair amount for them on Ebay or Etsy.  You can do some searches on both sites to see what people are asking for similar items.  Ebay is faster but you will make more money on Etsy- up to you which one is more important. 

If you really want to get rid of them quickly, you could list them as a big lot and sell them all at once. 

OldDogNewTrick

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2014, 12:21:41 PM »
Someone else in the family may have more room than you... find out who and gift them.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2014, 12:24:08 PM »
I love antique photos, and have actually picked up quite a few over the years at flea markets. I use many of them during the month of October for my Halloween displays in the house - I turn my entire house into a Disney-ish Haunted Mansion.

There are several that are incredibly lovely - one of a little girl wearing very expensive clothing looking out a window with Gothic architecture is my favorite and I wish I knew more about who she was. And a wedding portrait with a couple in their best turn of the century clothing that is just so sweet.

There are a few where I wish someone had put their names on the backs and a year, so if you do decide to give them away, please do put info on there if possible (lightly in a pen where it won't impress through to the other side).

I would think allowing someone else to "adopt" them and give them a good home would be better than stuffing them in a box in the attic or closet and forgetting about them.


If you don't have a use or place for them, and no one in your family is interested, then they are really only clutter in your house. One of the other things to realize is that it's just an image on paper - imbuing them with sentimental attachment is what's keeping you from just tossing or selling. If you are a minimalist, then letting go of something like this shouldn't be a problem - they are just photos of people long gone. The people themselves aren't around to be hurt or otherwise even care if you dispose of the photos, so why hang onto something you don't want?




$200k

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2014, 01:54:42 PM »
While we are on the subject of scanning, is there any major difference between scanning the actual photo, versus scanning the negative of the photo.  My Canoscan 8800f came with inserts that allow scanning the negatives.  Not sure which one is the best for preservation. 

warfreak2

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2014, 01:58:19 PM »
Why not just scan both?

$200k

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2014, 02:14:05 PM »
Quote
Why not just scan both?

My family's photo collection is vast so I'd rather do the job only once with the best format.  Also, I'd rather not pay for the service. 

But yeah, if there were only a couple hundreds photos, it wouldn't be an issue.

warfreak2

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2014, 02:20:33 PM »
OK, that makes sense!

Pick a photo and try it out both ways, see if one of them gives better results. If there's no visible difference, do whichever is easier.

Spork

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2014, 02:35:46 PM »
While we are on the subject of scanning, is there any major difference between scanning the actual photo, versus scanning the negative of the photo.  My Canoscan 8800f came with inserts that allow scanning the negatives.  Not sure which one is the best for preservation.

I think it's going to depend on the scanner.  Your goal is to get the highest dpi you can afford to keep.  I'm not a photo bug, so when we scan, we don't go too high...  but if you ever even remotely think you want to print them, you want them scanned as finely as possible.

If you're just going to plop them on a 4x6 electronic photo frame... you can pretty much scan at any dpi.

homehandymum

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2014, 02:39:47 PM »
I've just had something similar happen recently, but with antique linen.

I think I'll opt for taking digital photos of anything I love and then selling them

I did ask a local history museum if they'd be interested, but they don't have the space to store it either!  And I'm nervous about storing it all here, as the items could get damaged with damp etc.

lizzzi

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2014, 05:11:21 PM »
Thanks, everyone. I had not mentioned that besides the antique, large, framed portraits, I was bequeathed 30 (!!!) photo albums. Those pictures will, of course, be sorted out, scanned, perhaps made into collages, or put under glass on a table top, as you suggested. The duds will be discarded. The big ones, though, of the babies--including a little guy who was kidnapped and murdered when he was eight years old--are in the 16-inch by 22-inch range, and in ornate,old-fashioned frames with picture wire for hanging. In a way I "get it" that the subjects don't care--and that people like to purchase "instant ancestors"-- but I just can't send those babies to strangers. (All right, face punch, I know.  Stupidly sentimental.) I will keep them, and make part of one wall in my home a photo gallery with a rotating collection. Sometimes the dear little Edwardian babies will be displayed--sometimes a framed Yeats poem that I like, sometimes my framed print of a Great Lakes freighter…you get the picture. (Pun intended.) At some point when I am old, I will destroy the old photos, as I will the quilts that my grandmother made especially for me--they will be faded and threadbare by that time. I think I understand why Cassandra Austen destroyed some of Jane Austen's letters that she felt were too personal--I feel uncomfortable about letting personal, emotional family things go to strangers who will not look at them the same way.

G-dog

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2014, 05:48:21 PM »
A local museum or state/county/city historical society might be interested.  The frames may be worth more $ technically than the photos (just a guess).  My mon (a consummarpte cheapskate) used to put other photos in the frame (if there was glass) and just left the originals in place too.  Actually may have helped the old photos by reducing fading.
I have some old photos I inherited when my mom passed away - most are unlabeled.  I don't know who most of these people are ( not all are family).  So, as suggested above, think about labeling these if they are not already.

Sounds like this is a huge project!

homehandymum

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2014, 05:55:26 PM »
In a way I "get it" that the subjects don't care--and that people like to purchase "instant ancestors"-- but I just can't send those babies to strangers. (All right, face punch, I know.  Stupidly sentimental.)

Not at all.  Mustachianism isn't about being an emotionless automaton, it's about seeking efficiency with our money.  Nothing wrong with keeping something that is precious and meaningful to you!

For me, I'm about to inherit 5 large boxes of photos from my Dad.  Some of them are of travel he did with my Mum when she was still alive - most of those I'll toss out, as hundreds of photos of European scenery is pretty meaningless to me - but the old family photos are a different story.  I'm going to sort through them and pile them according to which family member I think they're more meaningful for and then send them off.  The rest?  I don't know yet, but probably I'll just store them in a cupboard for years and make it someone else's problem :)


ZMonet

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2014, 06:04:10 PM »
I recently had something similar happen.  My grandfather was going to throw out my grandmother's family photos after she passed away.  My father saved them from the trash heap and I asked to go through them and scan them to put on a website for the family. 

I could see an issue with the large format photos, but for a couple of boxes of photo books I see it as a responsibility to save them. You might not have much interest, but others might.  Anyway, by going through the photos, piecing together the sparse number of words on the back and Googling, I found things out about my family that I would never have known otherwise.  It is VERY humbling to go through photos from the 1880s and realize how small and insignificant we are.  It is also interesting to see those things that are passed on, either nature or nature, generation after generation.

lizzzi

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2014, 07:27:55 PM »
To G-dog: Thanks for the reminder to label the pix. If I'm hit by a bus and smushed like a bug, people would not know who is in the pictures. To homehandymum and ZMonet: I absolutely agree that the old family photos like my Grand-dad on a horse in World War I or whatever are clan property and should be preserved.  There are lots of others, though, like repetitive scenery or flowers in the yard ad nauseum, that I can distribute among the relatives if they want them, and still have leftovers for discard.

MissStache

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2014, 06:27:59 AM »
At some point when I am old, I will destroy the old photos, as I will the quilts that my grandmother made especially for me--they will be faded and threadbare by that time. I think I understand why Cassandra Austen destroyed some of Jane Austen's letters that she felt were too personal--I feel uncomfortable about letting personal, emotional family things go to strangers who will not look at them the same way.

OH GOD!  PLEASE don't do this!  Those photos have so much value, and I don't mean money.  I do a lot of research with historical costuming, and pictures like that- of regular people- are incredibly important and meaningful.  Having pictoral evidence of clothing and accessories is a godsend.  They may just be pictures to you, but to historians and researchers they are tiny time capsules that drive discovery and research.  Someone will value those one day, perhaps moreso than you do.  By your own admission no one in the family wants them, but I guarantee that there are people out there who will see them as the little treasures that they are. 

PS- And we historians HATE Cassandra Austen for that letter-burning business!

fidgiegirl

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2014, 07:00:10 AM »
I think making the little rotating displays is a great idea.  My DH has a lot of antiques and he values them much more than I do . . . there are toooooo many to have them all up at once.  They are tucked in the attic, and every once in a while we haul some out and change up the display on the mantle.  He gets to see his antiques, I am not overloaded by stuff on every.wall.of.the.house.

When you label, use pencil or archival ink . . . someone mentioned impression marks from pen, but also some pen ink has acid that will just wreck paper.  I'm sure some of you have seen older papers with, say, permanent marker that has bled through and yellowed all around the ink.  Or maybe not :)

lizzzi

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2014, 07:46:28 AM »
Thanks, MissStache and fidgiegirl. I had not thought about the right kind of ink for labeling, and I'm starting to think along the lines of finding a good home for these items someday, instead of destroying them. It reminds me of when elderly people euthanize their pets, because they are afraid no one will love the pet when they are gone. Such a waste, and a loss…so sad. I think when I get to the point where I can't take care of the old family things anymore, that if children and grand-children aren't interested, I will look for a warm, empathetic antique dealer (or junque store owner) who "gets it" and will adopt them and treat them with, I hope, some sensitivity. I'm really not some mad, destructive person--but I'm looking forwards, not backwards, and I'm so not into "stuff." The thirty photo albums…mostly of little interest…were a tad overwhelming.

moosestache

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #20 on: March 06, 2014, 10:57:26 AM »
Did your relatives live in the same general area for several generations?  If so, the local genealogical society might be interested in the photos when you no longer want them, especially if they are labeled with names and dates.  Local librarians, historians and genealogists can also be very helpful in identifying buildings and other historical items if you wanted to know that sort of thing for some of the more special photos that are in frames. 

For the photos of people you do not want to keep, consider spreading the word that you have this collection to all of your distant family, and ask them to do the same.  A picture of great great grandma might not mean a whole lot to you when you have 8 of them.  But to a cousin (three times removed, that you didn't even know existed) who doesn't have 1 photo of the same great great grandma, it might mean the world. 

Can you tell I dabble in genealogy?  :)

lizzzi

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #21 on: March 06, 2014, 11:21:09 AM »
Moosestache, that's a great idea about the genealogical society. Yes, there are a couple areas of the country where the ancestors immigrated to a long time ago and never had the sense to leave. lol  When the time comes, I can foist our old stuff on them.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: Antique family photos: What to do?
« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2014, 12:05:48 PM »
just wanted to second all the suggestions of preserving them and/or later giving them to the local genealogy society. depending on how you feel about that kind of thing and how many steps removed these relatives/ancestors are (e.g. if they are 2 or 3 generations back, they may have other descendants you are not in contact with), you might also want to put them up on Ancestry.com (they have a free 2-week trial membership). I've been getting into genealogy over the last couple months thanks to the influence of a coworker. when she looked up her ancestors, she found a ton of photos on Ancestry because other descendants had been doing research! it was so cool, and I was so jealous because there were NO photos of any of mine. then I found a box of old photos at my parents' house... a gold mine! I went through it with my mom and my aunt and while they were able to help me figure out who some of the people were, and I could guess at others because of some of my genealogy research, there were many that we're probably never going to know who the subjects are,  unless someone else on Ancestry recognizes them. it really bums me out! so, well-preserved (possibly scanned) copies of these photos with names and dates may be absolutely treasured by future family members, or even other distant relatives. it is so cool that you have these!!