Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

21 May 2009 - "Saving Photographs for Family History"

After a late and rocky equipment start by Andrew Davidson, a good turnout of local members enjoyed an interesting talk and demonstration on ‘Saving Photographs for Family History’.

Many people have old photographs of their relatives which are a vital part of their family history, and Andrew discussed ways of copying, sharing and storing them electronically to send them to other family members, store in genealogy programs and to ensure their availability for future generations. Starting from the old colour or black and white print, scanning into the computer and the use of programmes such as Photoshop Elements, etc. can enhance the picture. The usual format for a picture file is JPG, but GIF may be used for black & white photos, taking less space. However, these do introduce compression effects, so the master, unaltered copy should be stored as an uncompressed image, such as TIF.

The picture files may then be stored on the computer hard drive, CD/DVD or flash drive, shared by email with others, and copied for backup storage elsewhere. Andrew mentioned how this electronic storage has changed over the years, from floppies to CDs, to DVDs, to flash drives, to high-capacity, portable hard disks and we can only speculate on what will be the next step. Hence, there is a need to ensure that the files and the data they contain can be retrieved by future computers. For example, few computers now have floppy drives and some CDs written by computers have been shown to have a limited life. On the other hand, paper prints have a proven history of survival of over 150 years, so adding a professionally printed copy of the electronic image files of your precious photos should always be made, e.g. at specialist photographic shops, at Boots or on-line, and stored in more than one location.

One final point made was to never to destroy the original print, whatever it's condition. In future, there will be better hardware and software packages able to extract more information from the original and to better repair defects.

Andrew Dinwoodie

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