How to Save Your Family Photo Albums

by Elisa

By Cathi Nelson

Preserving family memories isn’t merely about safeguarding old photographs; it’s about ensuring that future generations have a profound connection to their roots and heritage. Too often, cherished family albums are discarded mistakenly perceived as insignificant for the future. Yet, these albums serve as invaluable repositories of familial history, offering glimpses into bygone eras and shaping our sense of identity. Here’s why saving old family albums is crucial for the next generation and how to do it effectively:

  1. Store Safely with Archival Protection: Begin by storing your photo albums in archival-safe plastic bags. Shielding them from dust and sunlight preserves their integrity. If your albums already contain photos encased in photo-safe plastic sleeves or adhered to acid-free scrapbook paper, they require no further intervention. However, additional protection from plastic bags is advisable for long-term storage.
  2. Beware of Destructive Albums: Act fast if your photos are encased in so-called magnetic albums. Despite their name, these albums utilize an adhesive coating that wreaks havoc on photographs over time. The acidic glue causes photos to turn yellow and become nearly impossible to extract. Removing your photos from these albums is crucial for their preservation.
  3. Delicately Extract Stuck Photos: Liberating photos from magnetic albums demands patience and precision. Employ dental floss to dislodge them gently, sliding the floss beneath each corner until the adhesive loosens. Stubborn photos may require gentle heat from a hair dryer to soften the glue. Exercise caution to prevent damage during this delicate process.
  4. Document Details for Posterity: As you free photos from their adhesive confines, document pertinent details such as dates and associated information. Index cards or archival pencils facilitate this task, ensuring that each photo is accompanied by its historical context. Additionally, preserve any accompanying documents, such as birth certificates or newspaper clippings, alongside the corresponding photos.
  5. Create Digital Backups: Prioritize digital back ups by scanning your photos before transferring them to new, non-magnetic albums. This preemptive measure safeguards against unforeseen accidents or the gradual deterioration of physical prints. Digital copies afford accessibility and facilitate the creation of shareable digital scrapbooks, fostering intergenerational connectivity.
  6. Display and Share: Select a few favorite photos to adorn frames throughout your home. These images display prominently as conversation starters and focal points of familial pride. Sharing anecdotes and memories associated with these photos reinforces their significance and strengthens familial bonds.

Research Proves Family Photos Builds Self Esteem

Research in psychology has consistently shown that investing in making and sharing happy memories with family has a positive impact. Studies conducted by researchers Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush at Emory University found that children who knew more of their family’s history had a stronger sense of control over their lives and higher self-esteem than children who did not know these stories. Further, children with the most self-confidence had what the researchers call a strong “intergenerational self,” feeling part of something bigger than themselves.

Children, even grown-up children, can draw on a bank of positive memories and family stories to help cope with more stressful or turbulent times. When families revisit memories with loved ones through photographs, bonds are strengthened, relationships deepen, and memory improves. It is also just plain fun to look back at the way things used to be, as time was passing before you realized it, as the children grew overnight, as traditions were practiced over the years.

By diligently preserving your family’s history today, you ensure that future generations can partake in the joy of unraveling familial mysteries. These photos not only provide glimpses of past trends and hairstyles but also foster a profound connection to our collective heritage and future aspirations. Embrace the responsibility of safeguarding your family’s legacy, for it is a gift to be cherished and shared across generations.

Cathi Nelson is the CEO of The Photo Managers Association, a role in which she channels her passion for preserving memories and facilitating legacy storytelling. With a wealth of experience spanning over 30 years within the industry, Cathi has devoted her career to assisting families and businesses in navigating the constantly evolving of field of photo management.

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