All of us have old photographs and documents relevant to our search for family history.
Unfortunately, many new researchers (and some experienced ones, as well) store these in boxes or file cabinets located in basements, garages, attics or elsewhere. This exposes the valuable resources to temperature changes, humidity or worse.
If some catastrophe occurred, what would happen to your family history? A simple broken water pipe in a basement can destroy an entire family legacy. What about the aftermath of a major fire, hurricane or earthquake?
The important thing to do is copy or scan materials, place them on CDs or DVDs, keep them on an secure online site, and also distribute copies to relatives around the world. Make sure to upload your photographs to your MyHeritage family site to keep them safe and also to provide family members access to these unique images and documents.
Several companies are now offering scanning services to preserve documents, photographs, videos and slides. Items can include old 16mm film, 35mm slides in glass or cardboard frames, deteriorating papers and all those things we keep in albums or shoeboxes.
World Vital Records decided to offer what it calls its family legacy-preservation service after learning that 91 percent of survey respondents expressed concern about digitizing and preserving family photos, videos and documents, while 50 percent said they were interested in uploading items to a secure site to share with selected family members.
Don't let procrastination take over. We are still talking about putting our 16mm wedding film onto DVD, and I'm not a new researcher, although procrastination is my middle name. It is the only copy and, if lost, couldn't be replaced. However, when we digitize it, it can be stored securely and distributed to family, thereby protecting and preserving the information.
Another case in point involves a cousin in New Orleans who had an old reel-to-reel taped interview with my great-grandmother who died in 1963. I had asked for a copy for years but there was never a simple way to copy or share it. Guess what happened to that during Hurricane Katrina? It is lost forever.
Many experts say that videotapes have a life of 7-15 years, while DVDs have a life of 100-150 years. Film and photos, no matter the quality of storage, will eventually fade, discolor or become brittle.
I guess the only problem will be whether people a century from now will have the proper equipment to play today's DVDs. After all, who today still has an 8-track player?
Researchers can always scan items at home and copy to DVD if they feel comfortable doing that, while scanning services offer various packages for different prices.
The most important thing - whether one uses a professional service or scans resources at home - is to make copies of unique family images and documents to preserve them and also to distribute to others.
What have you done to protect and preserve your family documents? I look forward to reading your comments.