This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Digital archiving of historic photos



I just love old photos. I collect photos of Phoenix, but not the paper, just the digital image. I call it "digital archiving", because it's a way of preserving something that would otherwise probably fade away, get lost, get locked up somewhere, get thrown in a dumpster, or be destroyed.

Since my specialty is Graphic Design, and I've been on a computer since my career started, I consider the digital world to be "the real world". I know that a lot of people really don't, but I disagree with them. That is, if something isn't on paper, or written on parchment, or carved in stone, it's not "real" to many people. But I've done a LOT of stuff digitally. The digital world is real to me. I do digital work, and my clients usually pay me with money that is electronically transferred into my account. I haven't had a client hand me pieces of paper with pictures of presidents on it for many years (although I would accept that). I live in a digital world. I've never written a check to my mortgage company, yet I get to stay here. The same with all of my other monthly expenses. Digital stuff goes on out there, and I get internet service, my phone works, I have running water, etc.

And that leads me to digital archiving, which is my hobby. It started many years ago when I started scanning in old photos of my ancestors. The original photos I put away, and the photos on the wall, over my piano, are prints from scans. They will fade over time, and when they start to look unsightly, I'll find the digital file, and print them again. That is, if I want prints. Most of the digital images I have I never print, I just enjoy them on a computer screen, like this nice big Mac I'm on, or my phone or tablet.

I don't really have any fancy equipment here. I have an ordinary HP scanner that I got at Walmart. I set the scan for resolution that's way too high, then I bring the image into Photoshop, optimize it as a jpeg, doing a little gentle digital restoration, and save it with a file name that will help me find it later using the "search"command on my computer. And here is the most important part, I share it on the internet.

Sharing things on the internet just makes me feel good. I know that there's no guarantee, of course, that anyone will looks at the images, or save them, or share them, but at least they have a chance. When the day comes (very far in the future, I'm sure) when they haul my computer out of here, after I die, I would hate to think that the images would be thrown into the dumpster. I haven't taken a count lately, but I have thousands, all of which I've shared, and I'm hoping to do the same with a lot more in a long life.

Before the internet, the only way to archive images was to handle them carefully with special gloves, maybe keep them safe inside of plastic sleeves, and of course keep them away from light, locked up somewhere. So they would be safe, but unseen. Digital archiving has changed all of that. Once something is scanned in, and shared, it can never be locked up, never needs to be hidden, and you don't need special gloves to handle it. All you need is a computer, or a tablet, or your phone. Please share.


Image at the top of this post: South Mountain Park in the 1940s, Phoenix, Arizona. Please enjoy, and share. No need to wear special gloves or keep out of the light.



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