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How to manage all those family photos

Photo courtesy of the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society
Presentation covers old print photos and digital images

When Mary Tsui saw specks on photos of her ancestors that she inherited, she wanted to fix the damage.

She had the same reaction when she was helping with the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s photo collection. In particular, Tsui remembers a damaged photo of a native Hawaiian man who lived in Southern Oregon. Sometimes called Kanakas after the Hawaiian word for people, many Hawaiians immigrated to the Rogue Valley to work in the 1800s.

"There’s a picture of a particularly elegant Kanaka man. The photo is lovely — except it looks like he’s got lint all over him. I just thought, ‘That picture deserves cleaning up,’“ Tsui said.

Tsui will share what she’s learned about repairing, organizing, storing and sharing photos in a presentation called “Managing Family Photographs” from 1:30-3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16.

The free talk will be held online via the videoconference service Zoom. To register, visit rvgslibrary.org/FormPage.asp?FormID=19. You will receive an email the day before the class with a Zoom invitation to access the presentation.

With the advent of cameras in cellphones, people are awash in more family photos than ever. But figuring out what to do with all those digital images, plus newly developed photos and historical family photos, can be a struggle.

“People are less and less inclined to have lots of albums on their shelves. A lot of people don’t have the space or they don’t have the interest,” Tsui said.

Many people don’t develop their cellphone photos into prints, and they don’t back up their phone snapshots.

“People are taking them without any thought to how they’re going to survive. Some people have lost their entire family photo history when they lost their phone,” Tsui said.

Fortunately, online services that store photos have become more common. Some of the services allow people to share images with family members.

“People can learn how to make the images that they have more available to members of their own family and how to preserve them for their descendants,” Tsui said. “A lot of people have the only picture that a family has. Distribution to siblings and descendants is important if you want to make sure it survives.”

The Almeda and South Obenchain fires that destroyed thousands of Jackson County homes in 2020 wiped out the photo collections of many families.

The Almeda fire burned within 1,500 feet of Tsui’s home south of Talent, forcing her to evacuate. Her home survived, but she realized backing up photos on a hard drive at her home wouldn’t do any good if the hard drive burned up.

Tsui said she’ll show people how to store their digital images securely, plus how to turn print photos into digital images. She said the tools to scan and digitally restore print photos are easier to use than most people think.

“Even though I’ve been involved in cleaning up family photographs for a pretty long time, the Almeda fire really showed me how fragile our possessions and the things that are important to us materially really are. They’re vulnerable,” she said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.