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What to Do With All Those Photos and Documents?


Recently a patron asked how to take care of photographs, documents, and an old ledger that she had acquired after a death in the family. Looking into it, I realized this question has two elements. First, a fragile or historically significant item should be digitized so it won’t need to be handled any more. Second, the original item should be stored in a safe place to preserve it for future generations.

To help with the digitization process, we now have two Digital Studios: one at Cook Park Library in Libertyville and one at Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills. In the studios, Cook Memorial Public Library cardholders can use library scanners to make digital copies of photos, slides, documents, and even fragile books. The library’s Digital Studio page explains all the equipment and how to reserve studio time. You can also sign up for a half-hour workshop for personal instruction.

If you’d prefer to let someone else do the work for you there are many options. For instance, Click, Incorporated, in Libertyville, specializes in scanning items as well as restoration. They also have a wonderful line of products to help you showcase your precious photos and other items. Check with other photo stores you may be familiar with to see if they offer similar services.

Once you have digital versions of all your precious photos and documents, you’ll want to store the originals in a safe place where they will not incur further damage. I have learned that photos and documents should be stored in special photo sleeves that contain no PVC. Acid-free storage boxes, which come in all shapes and sizes, can hold the photo sleeves as well as books and other three-dimensional objects.

You can find archival storage supplies at many retailers and online stores. According to their website, the Container Store has many archival storage options (search “archival photo” in the website’s search box). Michael’s craft store’s scrapbooking section may have some acid-free products as well. Other places to look for acid-free storage products include scrapbooking stores like Stamp, Scrap and More in Mundelein, specialty online stores like University Products or Gaylord, or even Amazon.

These books in our collection have specifics on the best places and practices for storing your digital files and your precious items. Take the time and effort to care for them now; future generations will thank you.

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Categories: Genealogy

Tags: Genealogy

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