Old Photos: Notes on Unsticking the Stuck

Quite a while back I wrote about evil magnetic photo albums and how scores of my family photographs were held in their death grip. The new year has brought a renewed burst of energy for this project on my part.

I’ve already covered the details of my agonizing over the decision to break up the old albums. (Pro: The glue harms the photos! Con: Removing them could splinter them!) For me, the decision was made when it became obvious the glue on many pages was failing on its own, and the photos were beginning to drop out anyway.

Also, it is so wonderful that they are not stuck anymore — that they can be slipped out of their sleeves for scanning and sharing. (Not too much mobility, though — some are really fragile.)

Beyond that, here are some notes about the process:

1. The unwaxed dental floss method of removing stubbornly stuck pictures (see here for a detailed description) is working well. Pictures are coming up very nicely, with inscriptions on the back intact. I’ve noticed, though, that one has to be very careful with prints that have the crinkle-edge borders, lest the floss catch one of the sawteeth and slice into the photo rather than underneath it.

2. It’s interesting how much my increased understanding of the family timeline has increased my ability to identify and date pictures properly. In fact, new genealogy facts — or more precisely, facts new to me — have cleared up some previously “unidentifiable” items. While some photos remain a complete mystery, I’m beginning to think that it’s premature to abandon hope entirely that they will ever be identified.

3. I’m saddened by the deterioration of the color of many prints from the mid-fifties onward. Was this a result of the magnetic albums, or just a feature of the print process? I guess I’ll be reading up on this topic.

4. I’m grateful now for my dad’s holding my feet to the fire with regard to studying German, although it was a complete bear at times. Very handy for inscriptions on my mom’s side of the family.

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