Thursday, May 12, 2016

Free the Faces on Slides to Unlock Family Stories

Do you, like me, have binders or boxes filled with 35mm slides?

Think of all those faces and stories trapped on those teeny, tiny slides. Some of my big breakthroughs in genealogy have come when a cousin recognized a face in a photo and dredged up an old family story. If those little faces don't escape from the slides, family stories may not come to light.

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood, had a dozen slide trays filled with travel images. Others in the family stored slides in binders (see above). These slides were not only dated, they had a table of contents with each binder and notes about where/why the photos were taken. A great head start for family history research!

However, it's not a good idea to leave slides in these plastic sleeves for decades, unless they're archival quality. Even then, remember that slide technology is old technology.

How many of our descendants will have or want a slide projector? I have one spare projector bulb. In 15 or 50 years, will another bulb be available if a grandchild or great-great-grandkid wants to view slides? Probably not. Will they even know what a projector was??

So it's time to downsize, move to newer technology, and organize.
  • Decide what to save, then toss or give away the rest. With apologies to my dad-in-law, 95% of his slides were of unknown landscapes, well-known world landmarks, grass or sky--we tossed those. We saved the 5% of slides with people and/or recognizable homes/rooms.  
  • Transfer the slides to digital images. We digitized nearly everything and filed them digitally by surname. We printed some images to blow up and share with the family, adding full printed captions to the hard copies. Keep the technology up to date, switching away from CDs to USBs and the cloud, or whatever is the latest.
  • Share the images. Printing allowed us to show photos to relatives who helped figure out who was who. It was fun to blow up a couple of slides of holidays in the old homestead, which would never have been seen again if they were trapped in 35mm slide technology.
  • Caption, caption, caption. While relatives can still remember who's who and when slides or photos were taken, write the captions now. Store captions with printed photos and/or write up the captions and file by surname, referring to digitized images and their location in the cloud or on a DVD or wherever.
Free the faces and unlock those family stories!


Wendy said...

How did you transfer the slides to digital?

I agree with your decision to toss photos of landscapes. Unless you can say, "This is where the old home place used to stand," toss!

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

My husband has many slides from his family. I had a few from my family & I made digital copies. My scanner had an option for slides so it was not difficult. Thanks for the tips in this blog post!

Marian B. Wood said...

Hi Wendy, Some slides I digitized myself using my Canon 8400F scanner, a trusty workhorse that has seen many a year. Slides of special value I brought to local Costco and for 29 cents each, they dusted them, digitized at 1200 dpi and sharpened them, and gave me a CD (or DVD? I forget) with the images, ready for me to print or just store. Good luck with your slides. And you're right--if a landscape looks familiar because something *used* to be there, I'd save it as long as someone helps me caption the image!

Marian B. Wood said...

Colleen, I still have a few binders of slides to be culled and digitized, but at least I have a strategy now. Many thanks for reading and commenting! Have a good weekend.