Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Using Your Smartphone for Digital Preservation

With the rise of such websites as, I have seen my own family shift from exclusively using Facebook. It may come as surprise to those who constantly post photos on Instagram, but that same technology can be effectively used for digital preservation. The ubiquitous iPhone has just been upgraded by Apple to a 12 Megapixel camera. At this level, this smartphone has the resolution of some of the cameras used just a few years ago to digitize documents professionally. The photo above is one I took, on the fly so to speak, with my iPhone.

Sometimes, obtaining high quality, professional level, images takes the back seat to convenience. I almost always have my phone but even as a professional photographer, I do not always carry a camera. Coincidentally, we just watched a movie where taking photos with a smartphone figured prominently in the plot. Sometimes, it is better to have some record than no record, even if the product is not uniformly illuminated. Here is a zoomed in example of part of the above image.

From both a photographic and archive quality standpoint, this image is blurry and unacceptable. But it is readable and I now have a copy of the entries in this directory that I would not have otherwise had available. It is possible, of course, that I could use the information from the scan to find a digital copy of the directory online.

The key here is that some opportunities to capture genealogically important documents come unexpected. In the past, we had to be content to writing down information, which could be hit or miss. Now, you pull out your smartphone and take a photo of the object (say a tombstone) or the document. There are also apps for the smartphones that upload those images directly to the cloud and if you have the right programs and equipment, directly to your home computer or hard disk drive.

You might want to remember to periodically download all of the photos from your phone to your computer. Some phones will do this using WiFi and thereby eliminate the need to plug in the device. My newest digital camera downloads photos directly to my computer by WiFi and so I now do that more regularly.

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