ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Whether your great-grandchildren can say thanks for the memories depends on how well you navigate the changing sea of technology.
If you’d like to preserve family memories like your children as babies or your wedding photos – or perhaps professional accomplishments and personal history – it’s best not to leave it to chance, says well-known genealogical and historical researcher Henrietta Martinez Christmas of Corrales.
“Be sure to leave some ‘bread crumbs,’ ” Christmas says. “In 50 years, what kind of record are we going to leave? People aren’t getting married like they did, so public records won’t be as helpful to people like me as they track down the past.”
Christmas, a longtime member of the Historical Society, writes books and articles, and helps people assemble their personal histories. She is a board member of the Hispanic Genealogical Research Center of New Mexico and editor with the New Mexico Genealogical Societies.
To keep history on track, she recommends that digital images be identified with descriptions of how you felt or what the weather was like or what outrageous thing was said.
“Don’t just save the image,” she says. “Take a minute and write a caption: who was there? Was there music? Where was the cat? Collect the data. It takes dedication to create memories. Maybe 30 minutes every day is a doable thing.”
Additionally she scans old photos, documents, certificates and memorabilia so it is collected into the same digital file. She saves the file to a hard drive, backs up the hard drive, makes a hard copy and recommends finding an offsite storage for those important photos and files.
“Make sure you can open it up in five years,” she cautions.
How to get organized
Maybe you have mountains of photos and paper as well as gigabytes of images to organize.
Professional organizer Hazel Thornton of Organized for Life in Albuquerque suggests taking a close look at your goals for your personal history project.
If you imagine all those memories refined into a scrapbook, Thornton likes the Creative Memories system for paper photos and memorabilia.
“I don’t recommend anyone getting into scrapbooking unless they have a burning desire to do so. Most people just feel guilty, thinking they ‘should’ scrapbook but have plenty of other important things to do with their time. Most are just happy having their photos in order and knowing where to find the ones they want.”
For deeper looks at your personal past, Thornton likes Ancestry.com and its companion program, Family Tree Maker, for digital personal and family histories.
How to preserve photos
Jim Kubie of Kurt’s Camera Corral in Albuquerque has many options for turning images from your computer into prints or photo books on his website, kurtscameracorral.com.
But he recommends that before you begin amassing volumes of books for later generations to take some time and carefully preserve the prints that are valuable to you.
“Lots of images are being taken, but very few (printed) pictures are being made,” he says. “Unfortunately the next generation (is) not going to have any photos to look at.”
He’s says the protective sepia finish and other coatings are the reason that black-and-white images from the Civil War can still be seen.
Prints well-preserved and stored away from light will survive any technology twists in the future, he says. “I know I’m an anachronism, but get prints of your important shots.”
He recommends that the prints be processed at a quality lab and preserved in a photo album with archival paper, like the Parker album system.
How to organize images
Professional photographer Mary Elkins, who teaches digital photography at University of New Mexico Continuing Education, says she has a two-week course that can help people lasso those thousands of images they’ve captured over the years.
She likes Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software because it’s relatively affordable and can adjust and catalog those images on your computer. It’s available for either Mac or PC platforms, she says.
“It’s intuitive and easy for consumers to use. You can use a keyword and find those images by your digital description.”
Elkins says backing up your hard drive and perhaps finding online storage ensures the photos won’t be lost.
“My IT guy is always reminding us that hard drives fail,” she says.
“Recopying everything every few months is always wise.”