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Preparing to Digitize your Collection

How to assemble your photo collection when you've decided to digitize.

You've decided that today is the day to tackle all of those old boxes of photos, albums, slides, videos, etc. that have been sitting for ages in closets, basements, attics, and garages. They're battling the elements of time and deterioration from temperature fluctuations, moisture conditions, sunlight, and the volatile containers that are holding them. You're ready.

What now?

Digitization is the art of turning hard copy photos, letters, and other media into a virtual copy that can be shared with friends and family. It allows you to toss your physical copies making space in otherwise crowded spaces and create special gifts like photo books, cards, and calendars.

Try to get an idea of what you have and how much. Write down the type of item with estimated quantities. Look at:

  • How many albums do you see? Take a photo to send to your archivist.

  • How many boxes/bins of photos do you have and what size are the boxes? (shoebox, boot box, large storage box, etc.)

  • Number of camcorder, VHS, or Betamax tapes?

  • How many cassette or audio tapes - even reel to reel tapes?

  • Any DVDs housing photos?

  • Approximate how many slides (carousels typically hold 80, small boxes have 20.)

  • Film reels (3" diameter, 5" diameter, 7" diameter or other)

  • Hand-written letters - a shoebox? photo box? large envelope?

  • Cards, postcards, or special invitations sent over the years

  • Art made by school children or in classes

  • Newspapers, magazines (LIFE or Look), pamphlets, keepsakes from trips

  • Any miscellaneous items you'd like digitized

If there is a large amount of items - say possibly thousands, consider a phased approach. Just start with the oldest, most fragile photos first and select a few boxes, a few albums, or older media such as film reels, slides, or VHS tapes.

Ambrosia Archiving can take it from there as we create an organized catalog system chronologically so anything you do in a first phase, a second, or beyond is automatically added to the established folder system.

Pitfalls to Avoid:

Try not to fall into the temptation of saying "I have to go through everything first to see what I have and what I want to keep." Here's why:

  • With the best intentions, it'll likely not happen. Waking up early on a Saturday to do this sounds promising and efficient but often turns out to be laborious, stressful, and overwhelming causing you to put if off again. After all - they've been sitting this long, what's another week, month, year?

  • You'll get distracted going down memory lane and only get to one photo or one album. Sifting through older items prolongs the process.

  • Try to assemble items when you're alone as other family members can be distracting by thinking everything has to be kept or everything has to be tossed. Sometimes it's easier to move forward without someone watching.

This is all you need to get started.

Contact us for a complimentary consultation for pricing, scope, and timeline.


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