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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Tuesday
    Jul092013

    Photo Tutorial: How to Relax and Rehumidify Old Rolled Photographs and Documents


     

    NOTE:  This article and the images are protected by copyright. PLEASE DO NOT copy and paste to your own website, blog, or newsletter.

    If you've ever tried to capture a family photo with everyone smiling at the same time, you know the exquisite torture of group photography. Some wise-guy pulls the rabbit-ears trick at the last minute, or crosses his eyes, or yanks someone's hair. That's why I love those long tightly-rolled panorama photos often found cast aside in family collections. You can usually spot a goofy grin, a secret wink or a wayward hand. It's a second of social history captured by lens and film.

    It's obvious that people don't quite know what to do with these old rolled photos. They resist exploration. When forced flat, the paper often cracks every few inches damaging the photograph. If you try to look at the photo a few inches at a time, carefully handling the paper as though you were reading an ancient scroll, it's hard to get the "big picture" of what's going on.

    This 1929 black-and-white panorama photo is a classic example of what can happen when a brittle rolled photograph is forcibly flattened without first reconditioning the paper; the print is cracked at regular intervals across the entire image.

    I inherited nearly a dozen long group photos from the 1920s through 1960s, most still rolled tight and in good condition. I really wanted to flatten the photos and examine them more closely for genealogical clues to my family history. If nothing else, I thought they would look great framed and hanging on the wall.

    Fortunately, it's not difficult or expensive to relax, or re-humidify, a rolled photo or document.  When I asked Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist, if there was a safe method to flatten those old photos, she directed me to the instructions and reassured m:

    "Yes, It's Safe to Try This At Home"

    So I did.

    And it worked!

    The cracked photo shown above was curled in a series of small waves looked like a photographic washboard. Because it was already damaged, I thought it would be a good item to use in my first experiment with the rehumidification process. 

    Since then, I have successfully rehumidified and flattened many panorama photos, and some curled and brittle snapshots. Sally says that the process is also safe with documents, not just photos. Museums and archives create a similar humidification chamber when working with old documents. You don't need any fancy equipment, just a few household items and a bit of common sense about working with your family keepsakes. Here's the recommended method I used with success:

    Step-by-Step Instructions for Relaxing a Rolled Photograph

    You Will Need:
    • rolled or curled photograph
    • plastic tub or container -- deep enough to hold your rack and leave space between the rack and tub lid
    • rubber coated wire rack -- I used an expandable plate rack (you need a rack that is large enough to accommodate your item
    • water -- room temperature
    • archival blotting paper
    • wax paper or parchment paper from your kitchen (optional)

     

    Relax photo fc 1Step 1. Select Your Photograph

    For your first project, select a photo or document that is NOT a priceless heirloom. If you just want to practice this technique, you may be able to find an old rolled photo selling cheap at a thrift store. Most people throw them away (ouch) because they think they're past saving.

    Tap the print with your fingernail. Does it sound hard, like dry pasta? It should feel and sound different when the paper is dehumidified.

    Relax photo fc 2 

    Step 2. The Humidification Chamber

    Place the tub on a towel or rug on your floor in an out-of-the-way spot where you can leave it for a few days. Make sure the rack will fit inside the container and extend long enough to support your photograph. The rolled photo will start needing only a few inches of space, but as it relaxes you may want to gently help it unroll.

    Add about 2 inches of room temperature water. Do NOT use warm or hot water. You don't want  condensation on the underside of the lid that might drip down on to your photo. Use room temperature water.

    Place the rack inside the tub and place your photo on the rack. It will look lonely. 

    Relax photo fc 3

    Step 3. Close the Chamber

    Place the lid on the box and let it sit.

    Relax photo fc 4

    Step 4. Wait.

    Let everything sit there for a few hours. Get on with your life. Read a new blog.

    Relax photo fc 5

    Step 5. Check for Condensation 

    After about an hour, open the container and check  your photo. Make sure there is no moisture dripping on the photo. Feel the paper. Does it feel softer? It will probably need more time to absorb the moisture in the chamber.

    What we are doing here is making moisture available to the paper, so that it can become limber and flexible once again. You don't want too much moisture, because that can damage the print. It could also encourage the growth of mold or mildew. If you notice beads of water on the inside of the cover that could drip down on your print, wipe them off and check your print. Notice the moisture aroung the side walls of the chamber in the next photo. That's okay.

    Relax photo fc 6

    Step 6. Check Again

    After 4 or 5 hours, or overnight, check the paper again. Can you unroll it at all? You may need to do this a few times. Keep checking every few hours until the paper feels relaxed. Look at the difference between this photo and the tightly curled batons in the first step. You can feel the difference in the paper. Tap the print again with your fingernail. It should sound different; softer, more like. . . well, like paper.

    Relax photo fc 8

    Step 7. Remove Your Photo from the Chamber

    When you think the photo feels softer and flexible remove it from the box supporting it with both hands and place it on the blotting paper. Gently ease open the rolled image. If it resists or starts to crack, it needs more moisture. Return it to the humidification chamber.

    At some point the photo will have absorbed enough moisture to relax and allow you to unroll it. If the paper is still extremely brittle and hard you should probably stop and seek professional assistance. I have not experienced this situation.

    Relax photo fc 7

    At this point, your photo is relaxed. Now you need to allow it to dry as a flat print. If you have a  sheet of kitchen wax paper or kitchen paper, you can place this over the surface of the photo before folding the blotting paper over the top. It's not absolutely necessary. 

    Relax photo fc 9

    Step 8. Add Weight and Dry.

    Finally, weight down the entire photo in the blotting paper so that it dries flat. I used a heavy wooden cutting board topped with both volumes of the Compact Oxford English Dictionary  (the heaviest books on my shelves).

    Stitch gurley crop

    Step 9. Allow the Print to Completely Dry

    It may take a few days for your photograph to dry out completely. Check it occasionally. Remove the parchment paper and let the blotting paper absorb more moisture. Give it enough time to become very very flat.

    The result will be an heirloom group photograph you can scan, restore, share, frame, or use for further family history research.

    In a forthcoming post I'll show you how I scan panorama group photos with the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner and with the Epson Perfection V500 and use stitching software to recreate the original long image.

     

    Disclaimer: 

    This DIY project worked for me; but I can't guarantee you will have the same results. Please use caution and good judgement, and try it at your own risk.

    Monday
    Jul082013

    How Genealogy Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement Makes Everyone a Loser

    I hate being a “loser.” But I am, and so are you. And it makes me angry.

    Last week I spent two afternoons preparing a How To article for The Family Curator. The topic was suggested by questions on Facebook and Google+, and was something I’ve had in mind for some time, “How to Relax Old Rolled Photographs.” I wanted to offer a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to tackle this do-it-yourself project.

    To create the tutorial photos, I needed to stage my process at each step. It took a few hours to get out all the materials, set up the shots and take the pictures. Next, I had to move them to my computer, resize, tag, crop, and write the article. This one blog post took two full afternoons to prepare. 

    I was ready to publish the article on The Family Curator when I read about the court decision involving a longtime website and a relative newcomer, and the discussion that followed.

    Barry Ewell eMail #30 Remember the Power of One
    “Litigation Between Cyndi’s List and MyGenShare Dismissed”

    and Comments by:

    Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

    Dear Myrtle: Is there such as thing as ethical plagiarism?

    Michael Hait: Copyright, plagiarism, and citing your sources 

    I’m a writer, first, and a genealogist second. I sell words, not research. I like blogging because it gives me a place to write, and I enjoy the response from readers. Every comment, whether at my blog or through email or Facebook is a kind of paycheck, the reward that makes me want to keep writing.

    I don’t want to earn a living blogging because I don’t want to spend my time analyzing conversion rates, SEO, campaign strategy, etc. 

    I just want to write. I write for magazines, other websites, newsletters, and all kinds of outlets, and often I am paid for the products I provide.  It may take a full week working part-time hours for me to draft, edit, create images, and send off a magazine article. Weeks later, I receive a check for the article.

    Some blog posts require more time, too, like the “How to” I’ve been working on. I have to set up materials for the photos, take the pictures, tag, resize, post to blog, write the article, and finally publish, hoping that readers find it useful (and maybe even leave a comment).

    So here’s where we all lose.

    I Lose

    As a writer and genealogy blogger I lose the claim of protected intellectual property.

    When I read about cases of plagiarism and copyright infringement where it’s unclear if an author has been able to defend his or her rights, I begin to think twice about what I write and post as free content on my own blog. After all, there is little guarantee that the same won’t happen to my content. I might turn on my computer  tomorrow and find that my “How to” article is behind a pay wall on a subscription website, or offered for sale under someone else’s name. Yes, I can demand that the material be removed, file a complaint, and state my legal rights, and I’ve done so in the past. But, the cold reality is that it keeps happening.

    If Content is King in blogging, but content cannot be protected, where does this leave the genealogy writer?

    Do we self-edit – only publishing on our blog what we are willing to lose and see appear under another by-line?

    Do we hold back “best stuff” to sell and post only reprints or non-marketable material?

    Do we spend so much time defending our intellectual property that we have less time to create new original material?

    You Lose

    We have an active and responsive genealogy blogging community. We talk to each other (a lot). But there are many more genealogists and family historians who are not bloggers and come to us for information, news, research tips, and know-how. They look for FREE first. And, that’s okay.

    If genealogy writers begin to revise their editorial practices and choice of content, where does that leave the genealogy reader?

    Less free original content

    Less free quality content

    Less content overall

    We all lose.

    Unless, writers and readers can work together to help maintain and protect intellectual property of the creators.

    Refuse to lose.

     

    • If you notice a breach of copyright on a website, PLEASE take time to notify the original author. Give the author a heads-up so they can take action to protect their work.
    • Always give credit where credit is due. Link to other blogs, use quotes, use citations, and ask permission before reposting someone else’s work, whether it’s a photo, an article, or a research conclusion.
    • Let writers know that you like the information they provide. Take time to “pay” for that free content with a quick comment, a Facebook “Like,” or Twitter RT.

     

    I’m not giving in, yet. Come back tomorrow for How to Relax Old Rolled Photos.

    Thursday
    Jul042013

    A Blog Birthday to Celebrate! Now I Am Six!

    May denise 1959 bday

    Put another candle on the birthday cake. . .

    It's hard to believe that The Family Curator is SIX this year! Was it only six years ago that I began reading Arlne's mail and fussing with old photographs? It feels like they've been part of my life forever, but have to remind myself that I didn't inherit her keepsakes until the turn of the century (this century!). 

    It was about 2000 when Arline's steamer trunk of keepsakes passed from my Aunt's care to my Mom. Auntie wanted the trunk, so Mom got the contents in cardboard boxes, and that's how the letters, photos, and all the other stuff came to me.

    The rest, as they say, is history. Which nudges me to make a few notes on the

    The History of The Family Curator Blog

    4 July 2007 -- Inspired by Thoreau selecting Independence Day as the jumping-off point for his time at Walden Pond,  I launch The Family Curator blog on 4 July 2007. Create Reading Women's Lives, high school English unit for my upper-division students using letters, documents, and photos from the Arline Allen Kinsel Papers. Begin an online journal (web-log) on Blogger to record my efforts. I discover I like blogging.

    4 July 2008 -- footnoteMaven features my classroom experience "Reading Women's Lives" at Shades of the Departed online photo magazine. My mom joins me in the search for Arline's story. I start to explore the world of FaceBook.

    2009 -- I enjoy meeting genealogy bloggers in real-time at conferences and seminars throughout the year. My new status as "retired teacher" gives me more time to blog and work with Arline's archive. The Family Curator changes blogging platforms and design moving to SquareSpace.

    2010 -- An exciting year when The Family Curator is named one of Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Blogs. Arline's letters and photos are scanned, filed, and researched. The bottom falls off the world when my mom becomes ill, and passes away in August; my genealogy buddy is gone. 

    2011 -- Blogging is slow, but geneablogging friends are a great support this year. The Family Curator is honored to be included in the Top 40 Blogs, and a new project is in the works, a book about working with family archives. Twilter explodes; The Family Curator is there.

    2012 -- Writing, writing, writing. How to Archive Family Keepsakes, F+W Media is published. Blog redesign and update; still on SquareSpace. Now we have to track Pinterest, Facebook, Google + and Twitter. Whew!

    2013 -- So far this year, Blog Book Tour for my new book. Speaking, writing, and having a great time doing what I love -- writing about family history and family keepsakes. Stay tuned for more new projects!

    Wednesday
    Jul032013

    Lady Liberty is "At Home" July 4, 2013

    Liberty Island Reopens to Visitors

    Lady liberty

    The National Park Service has announced that the Statue of Liberty will reopen to visitors on 4 July 2013 after being closed for repairs following damage from Hurricane Sandy last fall. The grounds have been refurbished, docks rebuilt, and new exhibits mounted just in time for the summer vacation center.

    The NPS notes that due to expected high demand, visitors must make reservations and reserve tickets ahead of time. For more information, visit the National Park Service website.

    Image Credit: Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty - the illumination of New York Harbor [Bird's-eye view of the statue, harbor and fireworks], 1886, Wood Engraving after a drawing by Charles Graham, Library of Congress Library of Congress, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b32167.

    Monday
    Jul012013

    Countdown to GRIPitt Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh

    I can hardly wait to go back to school! In three weeks I will be sitting in a classroom at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh for a week-long intensive genealogy course. You could be there too!

    As of June 26, a few seats were still available in three outstanding courses:

    Intermediate Research, coordinator Paula Stuart-Warren

    Military Records, coordinator Craig R. Scott

    Writing a Quality Narrative, coordinator John Colletta

    I was a student in Paula Stuart-Warren's Intermediate Research course last summer along with over two dozen researchers with all levels of expertise. Some students were experienced in working with clients, others focused on their own family research, and many were somewhere in between. The pace was steady, absorbing, and challenging.

    2012 July 26 Intermediate class cropped

    Paula taught most of the Intermediate Research sessions, and coordinated lectures presented by Josh Taylor on several subjects. The inaugural 2012 program offered four courses; this year there will be six.

    One of the things I liked about the institute setting is the opportunity to interact with faculty and students outside of class. The collegial atmosphere in the common spaces and dining hall encourage conversation and exchange. GRIP Directors Elissa Scalise Powell and Debbie Deal were ever present and always smiling; everything ran so smoothly that it seemed like they had been running GRIP for years. 

    If you have been thinking about attending GRIP and can fit one week of outstanding genealogy education into your schedule July 21 - 26, 2013, act now and register to attend the 2013 program. Read more last year's program from attending student bloggers here; and in my posts about the week:

    Off to GRIP for Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh

    GRIP Pittsburgh Day One Recap

    GRIP Day Two: Getting Into the Groove

    Getting a GRIP on the 2012 Inaugural Session of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh

    Book Review: My Genealogy Book Purchases at GRIP

    In keeping with my goal to Learn One New Thing This Summer, I'm focusing on Mastering Genealogical Proof. I will attending Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard, coordinator Dr. Thomas W. Jones.  Training is already underway: less sleep, more stamina!

    Please stop me and say "hello" if you will be at GRIP! See you in soon!

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