The categories of items we accumulate likely fall into one of the following categories:
- Books and manuscripts
- Letters and journals
- Photographs or slides including paintings and other art work
- Original documents i.e. birth certificates, marriage certificates etc.
- Physical objects from furniture to jewelry and everything in between
- Voice recordings in a variety of formats including tape, cassette and digital
- Movies including old film formats and digital
Most of us have a collection of photographs either in the form of slides or physical prints. The size and format of these objects can vary considerably, from small 1/2 frame slides to huge poster size (or larger) paintings or prints. Fortunately all of these formats can be digitized in high quality and stored in a variety of storage media and then made available to our family and other interested people.
Advances in technology have made it relatively simple to digitize photographic media. Flat photos of less than standard 8.5 x 11 inch format are best scanned by a flat bed scanner. Most of the scanners sold today attach to a computer by means of a USB cable. Almost all newer computers have at least one USB port. Higher priced scanners often offer an additional faster FireWire (IEEE 1394) cable port. Your computer may or may not have a FireWire port, so you may wish to identify the types of ports your computer has before purchasing a scanner. Scanner vary in price from less than $50 to more than $5000 depending on resolution, speed and paper handling capabilities. A good scanner for photographs can be purchased for under $100. The most popular brands of scanners are Epson and Canon.
The software provided with the scanner lets you scan an image and save it to your computer's hard drive. You may wish to invest in one or more external hard drives if you plan on doing a lot of scanning. Scanned images can take up a lot of storage space on your computer's hard drive and you may run out of space. Even more important, once you spend some time scanning your images, you don't want to lose them and you will need an external hard drive to backup your images. It is best to scan all your images into one folder, with subfolders for organization, so that you can backup the folder by dragging a copy onto your external drive.
Once you have the images scanned into your computer, you will need to label and organize them. To do this organization, you can use any number of photo organizing software programs. One of the best is Picasa3. This program is free from Google. See http://picasa.google.com/