You’ve scanned a box of photos and now what do you do with the original photos?
The problem of keeping everything
If you have a box or two or three of photos, keeping all the original photos after scanning them is a viable option. It’s small enough that your kids won’t feel overwhelmed when they inherit them, especially if they’re neatly organized. And then, eventually, your kids can decide what to do with them.
But if you’ve inherited boxes of photos from both sides of the family and they take up one whole wall in the spare bedroom, it isn’t reasonable to assume your kids will be delighted to inherit all those boxes.
So, somehow, there has to be a balance between keeping all the original photos and throwing them all away. I’m going to share my plan with you but I can’t make the decision for you, so consider what I have to say and then make your own decision.
Get rid of the junk
As I organize and scan each box of photos I’m going to toss the junk photos—pictures of landscapes or pictures from a cruise that have nothing to do with the family or just a really bad or blurry photo where you have no idea what it’s about. YOU’RE not interested in them and no one else will be interested either, so do your kids a favor and get rid of them now. They’re not even worth scanning.
Do your scanning next
Once I get rid of the junk I’ll scan the photos and work on turning them into shareable family stories—something family members can actually hold in their hands or watch on a computer.
In MY case I plan to do that with ALL my boxes of photos before I do anything with the paper photos, slides, negatives, and memorabilia. I scan and then put them back in the box nicely organized.
The reason I’m planning to wait is two-fold: I want to make sure everything is fully backed up in multiple places, online and offline, and that everyone in the family who wants them has a copy of the finished stories and has access to the scanned photos and that’s going to take awhile.
I don’t want to jump the gun. I’d rather put up with the boxes a little while longer and make sure I don’t have any regrets. You may not want to wait that long. I’m just telling you what I’m doing. But once I get through telling all the stories it’ll be time to deal with the photos, slides, negatives, and memorabilia.
Choose favorites to keep, then distribute to family
First, I’ll choose a set of favorite photos from each family. This won’t be a huge amount. I expect everything I keep to fit into one medium to small box. Then I’ll give my children, siblings, and relatives, in that order an opportunity to claim any left over photos.
If you’re feeling generous, another way to divide up the photos is to bring all the photos minus photos of your own family and kids to a family reunion. Draw numbers, and let all the siblings take turns choosing a favorite photo so everyone gets an equal opportunity to get the most coveted images.
The rule would be that photos of one family member would go to that person, but photos with multiple family members would be part of the choosing process. Then, if you have photos left over, check to see if more distant relatives are interested.
See who else might want the leftover photos
You can also check with a business or school or other organization where an ancestor held an important post to see if they want some historical photos for their archives.
During the 40’s and 50’s my husband’s grandfather was the president of the Bemidji State Teachers College, now called Bemidji State University, so if we have leftover photos or documents we could check with the school library to see if they’d be interested in either the originals or the scans.
You can also check with historical societies in the cities where your ancestors lived and offer them the remaining photos and documents. They might welcome getting more history of that region.
Another option might be a school or university that teaches photo or document conservation because they can use photos as teaching tools.
There are also stores or online sites that sell vintage photos.
Throw the rest away or pass them down
And finally, of course, you can throw away any remaining photos. I would save this option for last and if you just can’t bring yourself to do it, leave them for your kids and let them decide what to do! If you do your best to create shareable family stories and make sure they’re digitized and backed up, you’ve done all you can to honor the people you call FAMILY.
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