Tag Archives: heritagediy

Heritage-DIY: What I learned the hard way about home digital preservation

The door to the storage area of our house (which included our holiday decorations and other heirlooms) reveals the flood water line in our home in 2006. A lot of memories were lost, but we learned some lessons too.


In October 2006, I was away on a business trip when a freak 150-year flood event destroyed the contents of my family’s rural home. Facing an oncoming five-foot wall of water, my wife had little time to consider our possessions. For all the things we lost that day, I still feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for having married someone who (first) had the presence of mind to survive an epic disaster with a two-year-old in tow, and (second) managed to save our scrapbooks and photo albums in the process.

I’ve heard of many stories like that. In the moment of choice, we instinctively cherish photographs as windows to another time. An instant reconnection to faces that fade in memory as they (and we) grow older and pass. The world’s wide-scale shift to digital mobile photography makes capturing these memories easier. It also makes them harder to preserve.


If you haven’t done it already, it’s time to take stock of your photo collection–digital and print–and get them into a trackable inventory. My suggestion is to simply grab a sheet of paper and list the places where your photographs can be found, and the major themes and events found there. Keep in mind, your photos could be anywhere from traditional photo albums to hard drives, Facebook, or (if you’re like some people I know) still on your camera’s memory card after several years.

Cull and Label

When you have a complete inventory of what’s available, it’s time to focus on what’s important. Chances are, your life is cluttered with images that are low-quality, unflattering or lacking any memory of their significance. Pick the very best photos from your collections and start giving them context. This means “tagging” them with words and names that mean something to you.

Tags can be used in variety of ways. Collect major themes into directories/folders on your computer’s hard drive. These could be named something like “birthdays” or it could simply be organized by year. Tagging also extends to the names of the files. The point is to make them searchable for the concepts that are important to you. If you take a photo, and never see it again, does it really exist?

Diversified Digital Systems

Pick a good photo management application. Most now have the ability to automatically recognize and categorize faces. Something established an relatively cheap, like Adobe Lightroom may be the best way to start. Your local library likely sometimes offers free classes in digital photography and photo cataloging programs, so be sure to take advantage of those opportunities. Many of these programs can upload to online photo sharing sites like Google Photos or Flickr as well, so take advantage of that secondary backup option!

These software programs will allow you to add as many tags as you like and embed that information in the image itself, so your images will still be searchable even if you switch to another program, or upload them to the web.

Just remember, photos are meant for sharing! The more places you have your important photos, the better the chance that they survive into the future. It’s okay to save them on your hard drive but be sure to back up your entire collection on DVDs about once a year.

Print is NOT Dead

For the best of the best, it’s still important to have prints made. All things being equal, a print on professional-quality photo paper will outlast digital storage every time. My digital photo collection contained on an external hard drive did not survive the flooding on my house, but I was able to piece most of it back together by scanning in our surviving photo albums, and using DVD backups and web tools.

So how do you handle personal image cataloging and storage? Know of any tools (perhaps online) or techniques that could be widely used?


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wlef70/5676576994/sizes/s/in/photostream/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/wlef70/5676246631/in/photostream

John Leeke V-log: Steam Paint Removal

In this installment of his Voices of the Past Video-log, John Leeke demonstrates using steam to remove heavy paint build up from wood surfaces. Steam paint removal softens the paint film so it can be more easily scraped away. It works well with the heavy paint buildup commonly found on the exterior of older buildings during house restoration and historic preservation projects.

This method has significant advantages over mechanical scraping and shaving, chemical stripping and the dry-heat of torch, hot-air gun and infra-red lamp methods:

  • Significantly reduces the risk of starting a building fire compared to dry heat methods.
  • Helps control the lead-health risk issue because it is an inherently damp process and eliminates the lead-fume risk.
  • No fumes from heat decomposition of binders in the old paint as with dry heat methods.
  • Relatively low setup cost compared to dry heat and shaver methods.
  • Lower operating and supply costs than chemical paint removal.
  • Lower residue disposal costs than chemical paint removal.

Heritage DIY: How to clean cemetery monuments

By Jason Church

Cemetery care and maintenance is undergoing a surge in popularity that hasn’t been seen since the Victorian era. It’s little wonder. Cemetery gravemarkers are at once memorials to those we’ve loved and pieces of art. Caring for them provides a connection to a world before the internet absorbed all of our attention.

Cleaning these monuments properly is the best thing one can do to ensure that they will last for generations to come. And it’s easily done too!

Cleaning stones should always be done by the gentlest means possible. For chemical cleaning, acceptable products are detergents, solvents, surfactants, biocides, and intermittent water misting.  When choosing a cleaner it should be gentle, non-ionic, and have a neutral pH of 7 or one close to the pH of the stone. For example, the pH for marble is around pH10, thus the cleaner may be a pH of 9-10. Never use bleach or salt laden cleaners nor any strong acids or bases.

Glen Whitener showing  Elizabeth Dickey and Courtney Fint cleaning

Soft bristle brushes are required when cleaning stones. They can have natural or synthetic bristles. Vegetable brushes or soft grooming brushes for large   animals are a few that can be found in chain or farm supply stores. All rough or metal edges must be covered with tape to reduce the chance of scratching the stone. Do not use any harsh mechanical devices such as sand blasting, high-pressure power washers, or power tools such as sanders or drills equipped with a wire brush.

After you have chosen your cleaner, make small test strips to try out the cleaner and make sure we’re not going to damage the stone. Select your preferred cleaner. To make the task easier, it is a good idea to bring it in spray bottles or small containers.

Soak the stone liberally with water before applying the cleaner. Stone is a very porous material and will absorb the cleaner. By soaking it beforehand, the cleaner will stay on the surface of the stone and minimize possible unwanted effects of the cleaner. Spray the cleaner on a manageable area and work from the bottom up in small, circular motions. This will allow the cleaner to get into all the crevices. Working from the bottom up minimizes streaking on the stone surface. If streaking occurs, it would be a good idea to contact a professional.

GMCA conference 088

One scrubbing over the area might not be enough and it may take more repetitions, but remember not to scrub so hard that you damage the surface. You may also want to use different brush sizes for different areas. Keep the stone wet while cleaning. Remember to rinse with clean water after cleaning each area and to thoroughly rinse the stone at the end to make sure that no cleaner is left behind.

Cleaning cemetery monuments doesn’t take a lot of time, but the benefits could last for decades. It’s a great family activity to undertake on a nice day this spring. Pack a picnic lunch, some cleaning supplies and share stories of your ancestors with the next generation.

Related links:

NCPTT Flickr Stream

NCPTT YouTube Channel

Jason Church on Linkedin

D2 Eco-Friendly Cleaner

Prosoco Biowash Cleaner