Sorting and labeling old photographs

This is a transcript of an audio recording for my Getting Along podcast.


I have several thousand old photographs that I took more than 40 years ago. I’d like to preserve some of those memories and share them with friends and family members. In order to do that I have to digitize them. In other words, I have scan each photograph and save it as a computer file. Then I have to put them together in a personal digital collection.

I know quite a bit about digital collections, but it’s quite a challenge to actually work with such a large number of objects. I have to select a reasonable number of them for preservation. Also, I want to follow professional guidelines for digital collections, but that’s going to be difficult.

I suppose a few hundred is reasonable, but which ones shall I save? Sometimes it’s hard to decide, so I’m dividing them into groups. First, I’m throwing away photos that I know I don’t want to keep. Photos that I want to save go into two groups: Those I want to digitize for sure and those that I want to keep and maybe digitize when I have enough free time. The method works okay, but it’s a challenge to limit the number of photos to be digitized.

When we make digital collections, we need metadata, or information about each object in the collection. For example, metadata for a photograph might include a location, a date, a title, and a short description. My problem is that I can’t remember where or when I took some of the photos in my collection. At that time I was a busy college student, and until recently I hadn’t paid much attention to them. Now I wish that I’d sorted and labeled my photographs when they were fresh in my memory.

Now I understand digital collections much better than before. We should take good care of photographs and other artifacts that we want to save. It’s a good idea to organize them and record some information about them before they fade from memory.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University (1977-2020). Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

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