Thursday, December 20, 2007

12/20/07 25 years of Photos and Memorabilia -- Free at Last!

The most important thing that happened while I was Huntington Beach, and I’m still not sure how to put it into words, is that I became free. Free to soar mountain tops like an eagle. Free to explore individual flowers like a butterfly. If questioned about the top ten moments of my life, one of my answers would definitely be finishing the organization of my twenty-five year collection of memorabilia and photographs.

First you need to understand the problem: I had almost 20 boxes of memorabilia, photos and negatives. (For the sake of this project, we decided to leave Mel’s huge slide collection untouched since they were mostly before our time together, were artistic/nature photography and generally weren’t of the family.) I had inherited my mother’s photo collection which was in large part duplicates of pictures I had and Mel had a large number of his mother Edith and grandmother Sarah’s photos that he promised his sister he would scan and that she could keep the originals.

This last year I purchased two excellent quality scanners – one for photographs (and office documents) and a separate one for slides. I had separated the negatives from the photos and kept them safely in a fireproof file cabinet. I organized some of the photos chronologically. Sharman deconstructed the magnetic page scrapbooks that had grown sticky and yellow with age which held some of the best pictures. In summary, 40% of the pictures were in chronological order, many were duplicates, and plenty of the pictures were redundant, average or just plain awful.

The first task was to separate the memorabilia from the photographs. Then I put all the photographs in chronological order so it was easy to remove the duplicates – we worked the 4x6” and 3x5” photos together and the larger/unusual sized photos in a different section. Then we labeled groups by year, month and event where possible. Then came the hard part – we threw away 70% of all the photos. Granted, many were duplicates and just plain average, but if the picture didn’t “tell the story” or contain a special memorable image, out it went. We also threw away all the negatives.

Our plan is to scan these remaining photos, make back-up dvd’s for the safe deposit box, make three sets (one for Mel and I and one each for Dave and Sarah when they are grown) and then load the digital pictures into 2 or 3 new LCD digital picture frames for the RV. (I got to see one of these frames used when Karen loaded one with 50 years of family photos for her father – the slideshow feature made the pictures come alive!)

We did something similar with the memorabilia. For example, one of my first dates with Mel was to “Cats.” I had saved the playbill and ticket stubs. For this project, I cut off the cover and used the ticket stubs to make a page that we could scan. I have 20+ years of treasures from my exciting and full life with Mel; some went in the trash and others were saved. We are scanning the children’s art work, medals and awards. We’ll scan the travel postcards and treasures. Then we’ll place the digitized memorabilia pictures chronologically with the photos.

Turning twenty boxes worth of unorganized pictures and memorabilia into four boxes of organized treasures took far longer than I had planned. Fortunately my parents were very gracious about the mess I made of their dining room and allowed me to extend my visit by an extra five days. Mel gave up our romantic weekend plans to help sort the pictures.

The project was alternatively thrilling because there were so many photos we didn’t remember and exhausting because it was emotionally draining to let go of the past. My image for the final product is that my pictures and memorabilia will move from boxes and dusty scrapbooks to giant slideshows in digital picture frames that I will enjoy every day of my life.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to have this project done. I feel free. 

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