You might have been given the collection of family photos, some may even date back to the mid-1860s. Or another relative has such a box full, but has never organized them. Either way, you or working with the other relative do need to make the time to sort and organize and hopefully label that collection. If you wait it only gets harder.
So work on it a couple hours at a time, and over a period of a few weeks you might have it accomplished. Next decide how you want it sorted and organized. They are different ways,m depending on which is most helpful for you. Ways to sort include by surnames, time periods, hometowns, group photos, etc. My personal preference was the use of the two major surname branches – my father and my mother and then by time periods.
Get started by having available a large table – need plenty of space to sort and cover the table with butcher paper. You can write right on the paper to label the stack of photos for an surname, a place or time period. Keep in mind there will be photos you have not idea who they are and that includes family long-time friends that you can have photos of. So you will have a stack of images you can not identify.
Always check the back for any information, dates or names that were labeled years earlier. If you already had some photos that were identified, get those out to review over the unidentified ones to see if you see similar people. If you can for sure identify a person, so label on the back, using a pencil rather than a ballpoint pen which might cause an impression on the image side.
Once you have several images that you can label and they fit the style of organization you want, such as surname and time period, place in an archival envelope. Those are acid-free envelopes that will not cause any harm to the images. They are available in arts-crafts stores. Label the outside of the envelope; the people, the hometown, time period, any known information, such as a wedding. This makes it so much easier when you want to pull a specific image later to view.
If you have photos in a vintage album, it might be better to remove them and organize into the envelopes and they will be better protected. Store the envelopes in a large archival box of which there are many different sizes and shapes. Besides arts and crafts stores, many of the acid-free archival storage envelops and boxes are available on web sites. There are some plastic boxes but make sure the are acid-free and for archival use.
Yes, it will take time to get the photos sorted and organized but then they ready to view anytime. Plus when you are ready to scan them or have someone else do the digital scanning of each image, they are ready.
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