Friday, July 26, 2013

Future Lost Memories

My mother is a family history genius. She is a fantastic researcher with a passion for tracing family history. Mum has researched many trees from all sides of the family. She likes to discover the story of Family and will research current events of the time to piece together a story. It's not just names of deceased relatives, it is more. It is their story, their current time, their situation, and their motivations. It helps frame who we are. It's why I am.

As an avid collector of family history, mum is the gatekeeper of all the old family photographs. She is all knowing and can tell you who is in the photo. "That's great great uncle Roger with his dog Scamp" or "That's your third cousin's, twice removed friend of a friend Marcus with his pimple named Vanessa".

I love looking at these old photos, they are fascinating. A photo is snapshot of a moment in time. I love looking at their eyes, what was the person thinking? What was making them happy or sad or insecure or excited? I love the fashion, the hairstyles, the expressions. I love looking at the backgrounds. Where was it taken? Where are they? Is it a photo in front of an old fence in a backyard or in front of a landmark? When holding faded old photographs I always turn them over because traditionally they have writing on the back. The writing might tell a date, or a person's name. The one thing I love about old photographs is that many of the photos are not perfect. There are often heads cut off, or it's a picture of the fence with a person in the bottom right corner. It's not like the digital age, where imperfect shots can be immediately deleted. That's sad in a way, because most of the imperfect photos are hilarious.

These old photos are so precious. What if they are lost? What if there is a flood or a fire? They will be lost forever. By having our photos stored electronically in multiple locations we can save our photos from being lost. Or can we?

Old photographs are generally passed down to the next generation. In the digital age, I believe there will be many many photos lost. Will people inherit thumb drives? Old laptops? Social media profiles? How will we keep and store photos for our future? Even if we pass on our electronic photographs, how will future generations decipher the story? How will they know who is in the photo? It's impossible to write on the back of the digital photo. To future generations it will just be a photo of someone unknown in funny clothes and a strange hairstyle. The unknown selfie.

Software and hardware is forever changing. How will we know that our thumb drive or our CD will work in the future? The first permanent photograph created was nearly 200 years ago (give or take a decade). What can the average person do about digital preservation to ensure photos and content will last for two hundred years?

Have you thought about this? What will you do with your precious photographs?

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