Thursday, January 05, 2006

Organize and Scrap those Photographs

By Christina VanGinkel

Everybody who knows me, even casually, knows that I love to scrapbook. So when an acquaintance of an acquaintance phoned me up and asked me if I would be interested in helping them organize their photos and a box of other assorted memorabilia, or if I would have any tips on helping them get started, I of course responded with a yes. I love old photos, whether they are my own or others, still, I was unprepared for the two boxfuls of pictures and a third box crammed with everything from her parent's graduation certificates, to her own baptismal record.

I had told her that if she brought the stuff over on a Saturday afternoon, I would help her sort her photographs and other items. She could also look over all of my scrapbooking materials, to see what I used, and with any luck, soak up some ideas as to what she would need to purchase to get going on this most addictive of crafts. First, we had to tackle the photos. As I said, I was not ready for the number of pictures she arrived with. Each box was the size that paper arrives in at an office, the type with the set on lids for easy storage, and they were both filled right to the brim.

After we sat down with the boxes, I asked her to make a list of what type of pictures she thought or knew were in the two boxes before we went any further. Her main categories included photographs of her parents and their families when they were children, photos of her and her own siblings, and photographs of her family now, with her kids. I told her as there were so many photographs, that those three categories would be the ideal way to initially break down the photographs. Even though I did not know anybody in the pictures, as soon as she showed me a couple of what she meant, I was able to help her sort them, seeing as there was such a distinct period between the three groups. When I would come upon one that did not fit any of the three categories, she remembered that there were probably a bunch from when she was in college, and a group that were of her throughout high school, such as on the cheerleading squad, and at proms and homecomings. We made these two subjects into our fourth category and continued separating. I also suggested that she toss any photographs that were overexposed, unrecognizable, etc. While there were not many in the oldest photos, there were quite a few in the stacks of those from her own family snapshots taken before she started using a digital camera. An easy rule to follow is if you would delete it from your digital, and not waste the ink or paper to print it, toss it. About an hour later, we realized that we had made great lengths toward her goal and we took a break.

I had said I could help her for about three hours, so we decided that now would be the perfect time to look over all my scrapbooking paraphernalia. As she browsed, even I realized just how many embellishments, tools, and papers I had accumulated over the time I had been scrapbooking. I stressed the importance of only using acid free or lignin free products with her photographs, and we discussed a bit on how many of the older photographs in her now separated piles were yellowing. We also talked about the empty boxes she had arrived with; the acid free, archival safe ones I had told her she should be using to store her photographs and other ephemera in to combat the aging process.

After our break, we headed back to the photographs, transferred them into the boxes, and tossed the others the photos had arrived in, into the trash. We still had some time before she had to head out and I had to start dinner for my family, so we ended up talking about how she would progress from here to getting the photographs into actual scrapbooks. I told her one of what I consider the best secrets anyone that scrapbooks learn along the way, and that is that you do not have to scrap every single photo, and the second best kept secret, start somewhere, and she had already accomplished this that vary afternoon.

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