A few years ago for reasons never discovered my entire collection of photos simply disappeared from my i-photo library. Losing old photos is incredibly hard. In theory one remembers the important things in ones life, but frankly, it is the inconsequential things that one treasures, especially while looking through old albums. Without this picture, would I remember the pantry at Clark Street? We only spent three years there, but they were good years, and I would hate to forget them. Or the early years in the SCA, how many pictures are of friends we haven’t seen for years (or think of as they are now?
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, she cleaned the house top to bottom and made us kids take away all our old stuff so Dad wouldn’t have to after she died. (When he sold the house it was still quite a production!) When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I borrowed all the albums my mother had collected through the 40 or so years of their marriage, about ten at a time, and scanned all the ones that I thought my children or I might want to save, then sent the albums back so my siblings could have a crack at them. It hardly seemed fair to take the only copy of pictures we all might want. (I still don’t have a picture of me in the washbasin in the sink. Mother took a picture of each of us in that basin when we were about one. Last I saw the whole collection was on the refrigerator door.) It took most of my time for about a month, to scan the ones I wanted, but as an historian, I felt good about it. I’d saved them! Right- until gremlins stole the lot.
Thank goodness I shared a lot of them in my letters or on facebook because last week it happened again. A search of the i-photo help lists makes it clear that this is not an unknown problem, but mysterious, and the only suggestion seems to be “back up or be damned”. You’d think I’d have learned because it had happened once. Sadly, my back-up drive appears to be broken. I am quite annoyed with myself and more than moderately depressed about it.
But this reminded me of something I wanted to share with the world. My brother-in-law at my Mother-in-law’s funeral had a brilliant idea. While he was producing the photo montage that has become one of the nicer traditions of modern funeral gatherings, he took Charlotte’s albums and divided them up into “goody bags”. If my mother’s collection was at all typical, there were dozens of albums full of under labeled photos, and often no one wants all of them. I think he was rather clever to give us these precious mementos, and heartily recommend this idea to others who are getting ready for a funeral. This was my favorite from that batch- a picture of Charlotte and all her sibs back in Ree Heights. Will I ever know all their names? I don’t know. Sadly, I had pictures of our family at the gathering, but since they didn’t get saved in the computer with the letter, they’re gone now.
Actually, if you are getting ready for your own funeral, if you, for example, have a diagnosis of cancer, you might enjoy going through your old albums one more time, and your heirs would surely love it if you divide the accumulation between them- especially if you finally get around to labeling the pictures that on one else is going to be able to once you’re dead. We have one mysterious picture of I think my mother’s cousin and a little person (midget?) for some reason from about 1930. I assume that this was just one of those pictures one gets of the kids on holiday- but it would be nice to know who they were other than that we are probably related to them. Sadly, that’s one of the ones I lost, and unless it’s still in the old albums somewhere, I’ll never see it again.
Will these ever be of use to historians? Who knows? Geneologists maybe. But they are nice for us as they usually preserve the things we most want to remember about our lives, the “good parts version”. Remember the good, forget the bad.
And don’t forget to back up.