This photo is of nan and granddad Dunbar in 1959, 40 years after yesterday’s photo. Granddad was 81 here. It was on a picnic with aunty Miri and uncle Ron – but that’s all I know.
I knew my nan well as she didn’t die until 1981 (she was much younger than granddad: he was born in 1878 and she in 1893). In tomorrow’s photo you will see me and granddad together. It seems strange to me that I have a direct tangible link to someone born in 1878…
My approach to this project
For just over a week I’ve been posting digitised versions of photos taken from my late parent’s family albums. I explained a little about my intention in the first post (here). Dad’s funeral is tomorrow and I don’t want to think about that, so I’ve been considering various issues to do with this project.
The process of reviewing each analogue image will enable me to look again at the photos and enable me to re-engage with some of the ways they saw their worlds. It will offer viewers a social history about their lives and contexts. But there are some issues that need recognising:
- By taking the images out of the albums and digitising them I will lose that originality and order. The images won’t have mum’s handwriting underneath or have been mounted by her and so those links will be lost; and so a link with her and the original photos will have been erased in this process.
- Moreover the way I choose to process the images – drawing features out, through burning and dodging for example – will all create new different emphasis from those original items.
- Lastly the order I choose to share and show the photos, along with the online context of blog and website, will again offer the viewer a different experience than that of my own experience of seeing them in their physical albums.
- But whereas these images would only previously be seen by me or people who visit, they will be available to anyone online to see, at any time, and that seems a good thing.
So there, that’s the issues I’ve identified made obvious. Can you see any that I might have missed?
For now I will just keep on digitizing and posting, and then at some point in the future consider how best to curate and show the images and in what context (eg historical, familial etc.) on a dedicated website.
Are you putting the images back in the albums after you’ve digitised them?
No Catherine. But you raise an interesting question. Mum and dad left 15 big thick ring bound albums (themselves “new” in the 1970s with lots of older photos taken out of old albums and placed in these new ones) and so as I review and digitise each image I am placing each image into two digital folders.
One folder is the family album items, many of which I will post and the other is discarded images. Then at the end of the process of digitising I’m thinking of (this is a long term project) creating a family history site online as I have grandparents army records etc and then reviewing the discarded images and creating a sort of project around those.
So the project will be a sort of commentary on how family histories change as we re-curate our albums over time.
Worth scanning the original pages, surely, if only to keep to keep the handwritten captions? I find that seeing the handwriting of dead relatives gives as much of a jolt (more in some cases – mum’s handwriting on the first page of a book given to me for a birthday, say) than seeing photos of them.
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Good point Simon. I’ve also kept letters from mum and dad when he was abroad and so need to think about how I will integrate and curate stuff but digitising whole pages would cover the issue for now. Thanks
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I think it’s a great project by the way and by making them accessible online, you’re stopping them simply becoming digital silt on a hard-drive somewhere…
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All of great interest to me as I’m currently working on my own archive. Strangely enough my parents didn’t keep photograph albums which must have been unusual. Instead they were kept in original envelopes, boxes etc.
I’m interested as to why you didn’t put the photographs back in the albums after you’d digitised them as a physical ‘artefact’ to be maintained and then utilised either for family or exhibition purposes.
I don’t think keeping photos in a box was unusual Catherine. I visited my aunt Dot a few years ago and when I asked to see her photo albums she laughed and gave me an old square biscuit tin with them in!
I think the reason I am discarding the analogue photos is simple really: space. There are 15 albums – big heavy things. If I could put them somewhere out fo the way and safe it would be okay but many of the photos are already deteriorating have fungus on them, so it just a case of digitising and discarding. (Although as I said I am keeping digital images of all the photos – even ones I am not interested in now as I think there is value in that, although I am not sure what just yet).
Non of the other families want the albums or photos. In fact none of us have elected to take the big photos that covered mum and dad’s wall. There just isn’t the want to for them.