The Value of Old Photos

Looking through the family photo albums has been a pleasure. Now a lot of the photos are digitized, but they haven’t lost their magic. I can sit and watch (or flip pages) and smile or cry as is appropriate for the image. Here are some other ways old photos are valuable.

Sparking Memories in Dementia: Short term memory is often the first to go in dementia, but long term memories may still be available. Showing photos, especially those from their childhood and young adult life can often spark these memories and cause both sides of the brain to work again. Getting the person involved in a conversation about the picture is the best method.

Family History: Whether you want to have a detailed family history or just want to preserve certain points in time, photos are invaluable. Seeing a baby picture of your father or grandfather may help you see aspects of them in your own children. It’s even better if the photos are somehow labeled so you know who, when and where.

“Real” History: Every once in a while an amateur photographer captures *the* moment of real history. It can be quite the coup. Some of these photos sell for a lot of money. They can also be vital evidence in a crime, spark community spirit and otherwise play a role in the wider scheme of things.

Genealogy: This is where old photos shine. Finding one can lead to a long list of family members blocked from memory by age or generations. They can bring people together, solve familial mysteries and when shared they help others in their own genealogy efforts.

There are several things to keep in mind about photographs in general and old photographs in particular:

Storage: Not all photos are made the same way. Tintypes from the early stages of photography need to be carefully handled. Even fingerprint oils can damage them. Modern photos are also delicate but the proper means of preserving them is easier to find.

Facts: If you know the facts about a photo, make sure they are with the photo. It would be hard for your grandchildren to figure out what value the photo is if they don’t know who, what, when, where, why and how. Also bear in mind that the photos you’re taking now will someday be “old photos.” Make sure you preserve these facts for future generations.

Exposure: You may have seen a picture left in the sun too long. It fades until there is little or nothing left to see. Extremes in temperature, light sources and moisture can be destructive to photographs. Store them appropriately.

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