A tale of two families (as told by a professional organizer):
Family #1: Two brothers and one sister met with a professional home organizer to discuss how to go about clearing their parents' home for sale. The mom had been a widow and had passed away leaving a family home filled with treasures and belongings. When reviewing the boxed items in the attic, the family came across two huge photo albums. The albums were large, over-sized, old. The pages were black but peeling and flaking away with age. Some photos had slipped from their corner mountings. The albums contained lots of writing as did the backs of many photos. The text was in the creator's original handwriting which had begun to fade but was still legible. The siblings had never seen the albums or the photos before.
Looking through the albums, they realized that it was photos and stories about all of their father's relatives. The handwritten text listed the names of the people in the photos, it explained where the photos were taken and often told stories or included quotes or memories. The family was shocked and astounded by what they had found. Though tattered and clearly at risk of falling apart, the fragile album was seen as a family treasure. Unsure how to divide up the two albums between the three siblings, tense conversations occurred. Who would keep these heirlooms? Would they be separated or kept together? How would they pass them down?
Luckily, the organizer knew a photo organizer who specialized in digitization and could re-create the album offering the family as many copies of the digital version of the album as they wanted. The digital copies contained scanned photos and even preserved the text, much of it in the original handwriting. The family was blown away - and the presentation of the albums brought forth tears of joy. No one cared who ended up with the originals once they knew that all family members could have a copy of the valuable keepsake. The memories were priceless.
Family #2: The only son lived on the other side of the country from his dad who was moving into a nursing home having been struck with Alzheimer's. When clearing out his dad's stuff with the help of the same professional organizer who had helped family #1, two plastic bins of photos were discovered by the organizer. The organizer was excited by the discovery and hurried to share the boxes with her client. The client looked through the photos - some of them dating to the 1800s. Most of them quite old.
The organizer related the story of family #1 - at least to explain how the photos could be made into an album and shared with other relatives. The client picked up a few handfuls of photos and said, "I have no idea who these people are." The photos had no writing on the back, very few had dates. There were no written descriptions. The client showed the photos to his dad but his dad just stared at them blankly, too far encumbered by memory loss to make identifications.
The organizer asked about other family members who might know how to identify the photos. The client said something to the effect of: I don't really know who I'd ask. These photos are kind of worthless to me. You can throw them away or sell them if you think the old ones are worth anything.
The moral of the stories is that the photos found by family members and identified with stories and names and dates were viewed as priceless... the ones just thrown in a box with no written documentation were deemed trash. What will be the fate of your photos? Are they treasures or are they trash? When you are not around to identify, organize and label them - will they matter to anyone? If someone finds them with identification and stories attached will that change their value? Think about it - decide if it's time to preserve your family photos now.
Personal photo organizers can help. Leave treasured memories for you family - make your photos matter.