Family photographs. Those treasures that are put away in family albums, stuffed in drawers and cabinets that are once again found as we clean, organize and feel that touch of nostalgia brought on by the New Year. And as we pull out our ancestor's pictures, we are drawn into a desire to preserve what is perhaps our most valuable link to our family's heritage: the photographs. Birth and death certificates, documents of proof of lineage are the foundation of genealogy, but what really pulls on our emotional bonds to our ancestors are the pictures. Looking into the eyes of our grandparents is like seeing their souls once again and we reflect on the moment. Family photographs are the possessions that everyone seeks out to protect during a house fire, flood or other tragic event. So if we feel that our old photos are invaluable, then let's use the New Year to establish better methods of storing and preserving our heirlooms.

I confess that over time, I have been an offender of improperly storing old photographs. Poor habits established years ago, most likely as a result of lack of knowledge and inherent disorganization. But as I get that little 'lift' that the New Year brings, I resolve to improve my habits and make-up for years of malpractice. Here is my New Year's list for improving my practice for storing my most valuable inheritance, my family photographs:

Do not expose photos to sunlight.

Use archival, acid free storage boxes or folders
Place photos in acid free plastic
(Mylar or polypropylene) sleeves to store in photo albums.

Pull all photos, slides, films out of the attic
garage or basement to prevent exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, insects and rodents.

Place all negatives inside polypropylene sleeves.

Toss out all magnetic photo albums, which
are very
harmful to your pictures.

Here is an idea that I suggest to all who value your family heritage. Scan all of your original photographs onto CD's. Print out pictures on acid free paper that you wish to place in albums or picture frames (metal, no wood frames) and your photos will be preserved for several generations. And if this peaks your interest, consider donating your most historical photos to your local historical society or museum. Historical societies are always looking for vintage photographs that are significant to the heritage of their community. Perhaps your great grandfather owned the dry goods store on Main street and you have a photo of him in front of the store. What better way to preserve your family's history by donating the original picture to the local historical society. I am proudly donating the original picture of my grandfather working on an oil well during the Oklahoma Oil Boom to our local historical society. Isn't that what all of this is really about? Preserving our family's heritage so that our ancestors are not forgotten.

I wish you a wonderful New Year,

(source:The American Museum of Photography.)
William Larkin Capps (right) and brother working on an Oklahoma oil rig in 1927.