Archive for the ‘Preservation’ Category

Proper Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs

October 6, 2010

Saving Your Bacon”

Over the years I’ve had some ‘almost’ tragic experiences losing information and digital images. Fortunately I had multiple backups on different kinds of media and devices that saved my bacon.

I’m writing today to help save your bacon and protect you from yourself. I’m guessing you are like many people I speak with via the phone or at family history conventions. Unfortunately you may have acquired some bad habits over the years. Worst of all, you thought you were doing the right thing by protecting the reflective side of your CDs. Oops!

First of all, let’s shed some light on a few myths.

  1. There’s no perfect medium for preserving information and photos unless you can afford to write and record on gold, stainless steel or stone.

  2. All the archival media of today have trade offs. CDs, DVDs, Blu ray, hard drives, flash drives (have the lowest life time expectancy and are meant for temporary storage), tape drives etc. Each has a vulnerability for future destruction, failure or data loss. Not to mention having no access in the future to a device that can read or “play” the media. Here’s an example. Do you have any old 8-track tapes? Do you have an 8-track player? Ah haw! I got you there. So without the player you can’t play any of the tapes making your old tapes worthless and inaccessible no mater how well preserved. Do you know a friend with an 8-track player? That would be me. However, as time marches on, access to old technology will become impossible and the old device may not work anymore.

What’s the Best Archival / Storage Method?

Let’s be very clear and realistic – there is no single, best method for archiving and preservation. My recommendation is somewhat simple.

  • Use different kinds of media.
  • Create multiple copies that are stored in different locations outside your home.

Why? A flood, fire, earthquake, theft or other natural disaster could wipe out ALL your family history in seconds. Sharing your photos and information is the BEST survival strategy.

Please refer to my newsletter for an interesting perspective on preserving and archiving. Following the simple recommendations in this newsletter will assure your photos and family history will be backed up and preserved using the latest and most sophisticated technology. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime to utilize this preservation strategy.

You should also consider learning how to embed photo information directly into the photo file (IPTC) so information will survive with the file into the future. It’s doesn’t do much good to go to all this work to preserve photos without any identifying and associated information. See this newsletter.

CD/DVD Do’s and Don’ts

Protect the correct side of the CD. It’s NOT the reflective side. Trust me and read on. Protect the label side of the CD from scratches and abuse. Any damage to the label side may destroy the information on the CD. If you must lay the CD next to your computer, lay it down with the reflective side up!!

Don’t Write on a CD. The acid in the ink will eat through the thin layer of protective coating. The pressure applied while writing with a ballpoint pen may damage or pierce the surface coating. Always use pens that are made specifically for writing on CDs. You can find these at any office supply or stationary section of a department store.

Never Put Post-It Notes or labels on a CD. Once a I put a post-it note on a CD. A week later when I removed the post-it note and part of the reflective coating came off with the note. However, all was not lost since the CD made a nice drink coaster.

Labeling CDs? I admit it – I’m paranoid. I never put any kind of a label on a CD. One fear is it may cause the CD to wobble in the drive which makes it impossible for the drive to read the CD. This is kind of like the wheel on your car vibrating at high speed because the tire is out of balance as it spins.

Never Put a Partial Label on a CD. If you must use a paper label select from a high quality brand. I’d never put any paper labels on a CD to use for archival purposes. I prefer to create colorful jewel case insert for a CD/DVD I’m sharing.

Protect the Reflective Surface of a DVD. Just when you thought you had a one size fits all strategy for protecting CDs I throw this next curve at you.

Protecting a DVD is the opposite of CD. Unlike a CD, a DVD has two layers of plastic so you don’t need to worry about protecting the label side of a DVD. You need to protect the reflective side. Why? Because a DVD uses smaller dots to record the information which is why they hold more data than a CD. However, scratches on the reflective side of a DVD are much more serious than a CD. In other words, a few small scratches on the reflective side of a DVD may be the kiss of death when trying to access anything stored on the DVD.

Protect BOTH Sides of a CD/DVD. This is obvious. I added this so I would not be embarrassed by some sending feedback Titled – “Well Duh, you should protect both sides dummy!”

Proper Storage of CD/DVDs. Just like the old vinyl music records of past years, store your CD/DVDs in a protective plastic jewel case standing on its edge in a dark, cool dry place. The plastic and coating used may age when DVDs and CDs are left out in the sun. Even ambient room light can deteriorate the surface of CD/DVDs.

Use Archival Quality CD/DVDs. Consider purchasing “gold” archival DVDs. Why use an expensive CD? A CD holds less information. The cost of archival DVDs will be less than the cost of using archive CDs. Just because it looks like it’s gold doesn’t make it a gold archival quality CD/DVD. Read the CD/DVD specification to be sure it is an archival quality CD/DVD.

You can find more information about preservation in my book, The Digital Family History Guidebook.

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Are Your Photos Overwhelming You?

April 12, 2010

Photo Management Suggestions

During the past fifteen years I’ve struggled with many strategies to preserve, organize and manage photos. I have many different types and sizes of photos including slides and newspaper clippings.

The photo at the left is one of many photos in my Olsen family photo collection. This photo represents an avoidable tragedy. The photo was taken about 1900 in Norway. These two beautiful young ladies are probably relatives. Unfortunately we may never know their names, where they lived and how they were related, No one took the time to write any information on the back of the photo. Hopefully I may find a relative who has the same photo with information.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about working with photos:

  1. Scan and save only the best quality photos. No one will be interested in looking at poor quality photos unless a photo is ‘one of kind.’ Refer to my blog about scanning recommendations so you don’t waste time creating poor quality scans. More scanning information can be accessed by clicking this link.
  2. Eliminate duplicate photos. Pick and save the best photo when you have several similar photos.
  3. Photos without descriptive information are worthless. Sorry to be so blunt. Few people enjoy looking at meaningless photos. Click this link for more information.
  4. DO NOT copy photos into your computer without a plan. You will discover it’s easier to find photos in boxes than disorganized folders on your computer. See the next suggestion.
  5. Avoid organizing photos by names and dates. Maintain the context in which photos were taken when copying photos into folders. Use topical names for folder or collection names such as the occasion when photos were taken. For example, you take photos on a picnic or hike. Put all the photos taken during the picnic or hike into a folder named “Dry Canyon Hike” because that is the location where the hike occurred. For a graduation you might name the photo folder “Nathan Graduation 2009.” Photos of my great grandfather’s rock home are in a collection called, “Carl Steen’s Rock Home.” More information may be found by clicking this link.
  6. Do not break up photo albums. Scan photos into categories (folders) similar to the pages in the album. This will maintain the organization that was used to create the album. For example, you may discover the photos on an album page were all cousins. Studying the photo grouping of album pages and sections may reveal other hidden information.
  7. Add oral narrative and stories to photos. Next time you visit your grandparents ask to see their photo album. Be prepared to hear fascinating stories of their history that you’ve never heard. Don’t forget to ask about how they met, courted, and married. Old photos were expensive and usually taken for a reason, Your challenge is to discover the story hidden in each photo. Record the stories and information with a tape recorder or digital voice recorder. Associating oral narrative with a photo is priceless, enhances meaning and really brings a photo back to life. 
  8. Keep Information within the photo file. Use a computer software program to embed (store) descriptive text information and dates in the computer photo file. Learn more about “Photo & Information Survivability by clicking this newsletter link.
  9. Improve your digital camera skills. Learn to take better quality photos. For more information, click this newsletter link. Digital Photography in Family History.
  10. Avoid scanning promotions. If someone comes to your door and offers to scan and preserve all your photos – Smile and then RUN! All you will end up with is several DVDs and a big bill. Your photos will be preserved but without any of the descriptive information that makes the photo meaningful and valuable. There is still hope if you copy the images from the DVDs and use another program such as Heritage Collector to add photo captions and identify the people in the photos. Make new DVD archives of the photos and information. Note: Having someone scan and enhance your photos maybe helpful and save time if you do not want to scan your photos. Sort photos into groups so you will have some general photo organization when you receive the DVD photo collections.

More information links about photos

Old Shoebox Newsletter 

Photo Identification Suggestions

Scanning Tutorial

Photo Management Software

Finding a Needle in the Haystack

February 19, 2010

Is a Cemetery Really a Big Haystack?

The following definition of finding a needle in a haystack summarizes my recent trip to a cemetery.   

 “If trying to find something is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find among everything around it.” from UsingEnglish.com   

Last September my cousin passed away. I attended the funeral and graveside service. I returned to the cemetery in November to get a photo of the marker and the exact GPS coordinates. I knew his grave would be easy to find because it was located between the road and a fence in the north corner of the cemetery. There was a large tree not far from the grave to use as reference point. Unfortunately I was not successful finding his grave and assumed the headstone still needed to be placed.   

In January I decided to try again but a foot of snow now covered all the graves. This cemetery requires all markers to be flat and flush with the ground so I’d have to wait until the snow melted.   

Most of the snow was gone in February so I made another trip to the cemetery. I took my oldest son along so I’d have a second pair of eyes to make it easier to find the grave. We stopped near the big tree and walked about fifty feet toward the fence which should have put us right over the grave.   

I didn’t see the grave nearby so I enlarged my search to about a fifteen foot radius. Still no grave. I verified I was in line with the big tree near the road so I should be in the right area. I wondered if they were waiting for the ground to settle before placing the stone.   

Which tree?

I used the wrong tree as a reference point.

 

I decided not to give up but to widen my search area. A cold wind was blowing as I searched causing the hand holding my big camera to start hurting. I looked back at the tree and decided I was aligned with the wrong tree! I walked about another fifty feet down and started reading more markers. Still no success and my hand was almost numb.   

Finally I had success. I told my son it was frustrating it took so long to find the grave since I was there for the burial only a few months ago.   

This personal experience reinforces the importance of having GPS coordinates for burial sites. Using trees and other landmarks is not dependable since cemetery topography changes our memory fades of the exact location. It would have been more difficult if my cousin had been buried in another part of the cemetery where there are fewer trees and his grave would been partially covered by snow.  

Take photo of GPS device and the grave

Take photo of GPS device and the grave

 

Take Photos and Get GPS Coordinates

Use a Garmin Nuvi, car GPS navigator, cell phone or a dedicated GPS device to display and record coordinates at the cemetery. 

 

How to Save GPS Coordinates For a Grave

  1. Take a photo of the grave marker.
  2. Display the coordinates screen on your GPS device. To get coordinates on a Garmin Nuvi: Touch “Where To?” → press the down arrow on the right side of the screen → select “Coordinates.” The coordinates display will appear showing your location.
  3. Place your GPS directly on the marker or hold your GPS and stand near the grave.
  4. Position the GPS device (place it near your body and turn your back to the sun to eliminate glare).
  5. Take photo of GPS device.
  6. Preview the photo to make certain you can read the GPS coordinates.
  7. Import photos of graves and GPS coordinate photos into your computer.

Saving Photos and GPS Coordinates for Future Reference

I returned home and imported my cemetery photos into Heritage Collector. Next I displayed the photo of the Garmin coordinate screen, typed in coordinates and then used the cut/paste option to put the GPS coordinates into the photo of the grave.   

I was concerned the GPS coordinates and photo of the grave may be lost or become unassociated with the photo of the grave. I used the new Embed Information option to put the photo caption, date, and GPS coordinates into the IPTC portion of each image file. That way the important information will always remain with the photo file for future reference. Now it’s possible for ALL information to stay embedded in the IPTC portion of the image file.   

Printing a Cemetery Map With GPS Coordinates

The last step was to go into the Heritage Collector’s GPS Track module and create screen captures of the cemetery map at different satellite magnifications (elevations) to make it easier for family members to find my cousin’s grave – even if the cemetery is covered by snow and the old trees are gone. 

A GPS Map makes it easier to find the cemetery and grave