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January 12, 2015

Organizing Family Photos - Creating a Plan

Today I decided the time has come to sort, scan and organize my physical photographs. I have thousands. Some are older family photos going back to 1900 from my mother, her sister, my aunt and my mother's cousin. Some are my family photos from when I was a child, and others are from my life since 1970. 

I also have my personal collection of CDVs, Cabinet Cards, tintypes, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes. I  estimated I have over 3,000 of those. 

Organizing Family Photos - Creating a PlanTo start with I am concentrating on my family photos. You can see most of what I have in the photo on the left.  

As you can see currently they are tossed into plastic tubs but I want to store them in archival quality boxes.

The first thing I did this morning was take a look to see what sizes of photographs I need to store. That allows me to determine the size of boxes I need and make an estimate as to how many will be required.

Then I started making my plan. First - I decided what my goal was for these photos - what is the final outcome I want? I know I want to eventually scan them all so I need one box for unscanned photos. Some have been scanned already and those are already sorted into tubs so that will be fairly quick to get into archival boxes when they arrive.

Any plan for organizing photos will depend on how you want to store them - by family groups? By time periods? By names of the person you are going to give them to? The choice is personal. I want to give some of mine to my adult children as soon as possible, others I want to keep for my grandchildren when they are older and some I want to hang on to myself.

I decided I needed 8 boxes to hold 4x6 photos, 1 box for 8x10 and 1 box for 11x14. With the 4x6 boxes I will have one box for photographs for each of my grown children, one for recent photographs I don't want to part with yet, one box for my life as a child growing up with my parents, one box for my maternal grandmother's family and one for my maternal grandfather's family. 

When my boxes arrive I will sort the photos I have already scanned and get them put away. Scanning the photos not yet scanned will be something I do in bits and pieces over the coming months.

Next week I will create an organizational plan for my personal collection of mid 19th century photos and share that. I still have to create a plan for my digitized and scanned photos so I will work on that later this week and share it here on Olive Tree Genealogy blog.


Maggie said...

I am at a similar stage in my photo organization, with similar old photos as yours, so this post is perfect for me...could you explain "archival photo boxes", where to get them, and how to safely pack each photo? In addition, I live in New England on the ocean with that wet, moist, damaging sea breeze! Thank you.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Hi Maggie

I'll be talking about the boxes I ordered and where I got them once they arrive. The company ( is in the USA and they say about 3 weeks before they get to me in Canada.

I'm not an archivist so I am taking advice I've gathered from others over the years. Happy to share it though as I go along with this project so keep watching my blog

Susanna Rosalie said...

Just attended a webinar on this topic by the Southern California Genealogical Society - SCGS:
'Preservation of Photographs and the Importance of a Good Scan', presenter Brett Payne.

For members of the society there is an archived broadcast available.

Thought I share this here, because I found it quite helpful, esp. the info given on the steps recommended before getting to the scanning.

Susanna Rosalie

Helen Connor said...

Your photo of storage boxes could be mine - I have some organised but lots to do - thanks for your post

Unknown said...

I'm undergoing the same process and started from the same point and goal. But my goal is to create scrapbooks, so I sorted them according to the scrapbook in which they will be used. Instead of boxes, I've put them in archival photo pages in 3 ring binders. I have about 15 binders. My family is / was very prolific with the camera!

Unknown said...

I am using your same system for storing loose pictures in family bins. I also am putting them in 3 ring binders to give to the person whose binder it is once I have the pictures in them. I store the binders in two large bins until I need them. I am doing the same thing that Lynne Bliss is doing. Everything is by person. All my digital pictures are on digital sticks by person too starting back in 2006. It has been on hold the past 3 years due to home caring, but I will be working on them again this winter.