I do like projects with variety. One recently completed photo organization project offered plenty:
- 1,200 prints (including 4×6, panoramic, 8×10, wallet, and other sizes)
- 175 loose negative strips
- 3 CDs with mystery images
- 70 prints stuck to each other (also a mystery)
- 200 prints stuck to film in an album
- 3 Kodak Advantix film canisters with more mystery images
The starting point
The client delivered everything to me in a six-drawer plastic cabinet. She had categorized the images into 20 or 30 groups. This was helpful, as it gave me a sense for the significant events over the past 20 years. The negatives were not organized, except that some were in plastic sleeves. There were also some mystery items, as noted above.
The client was interested in digitizing her negatives and printed photos eventually, but she wanted to begin with organizing what she had in the cabinet. This was a good approach. Photo organizers recommend three copies, on a variety of media, to guard against different hazards (Digital Preservation: 3 Copies). Hard copy (negative strips, printed photos) are one legitimate copy. Digitization isn’t about replacing your hard copy prints, it is about storing them in a complementary format.
Archival storage materials
After assessing the quantities, I determined that everything would fit into two archival boxes. One of the boxes would accommodate wallet, 4×6, and 5×7 prints. The other box would accommodate larger items, including 8×10 school portrait prints, diplomas, a preschool notebook, and a high school yearbook.
The box for the prints included compartments and dividers; it was very nice that it accommodated prints up to 5×7. Negative folders were used to group the negatives after they were sorted and to label them with the corresponding dividers. Archival envelopes were used for sub-groups behind some dividers.
The second box held several archival velcro folders as well as a long compartment for the panoramic prints. Archival organizing materials used for this box included:
- polyethylene bags
- manilla folders (archival grade card stock)
- archival tissue (to place between prints when the backs are sticky)
For the CDs and the negatives strips, I viewed the images and matched them to any existing prints. Some prints were missing, so I created contact sheets. The contact sheets will provide the client with a record of all of the images and help her determine if there are any images that she wants to print at a future date. The mystery images yielded some gems – memories that the client had last viewed up to two decades ago.
The final product
All of the items in the six-drawer file cabinet (plus a loose album and notebook) were organized into two 13.5 x 16.0 x 6.0″ archival boxes. The first box held all prints (except panoramics and school portraits), organized by year; the second box held larger prints and other memorabilia.
The client was pleased with the result, commenting: