Preserving Your Personal Memories: Students Create Workshop on Photo Archiving

The following is a guest post by Lea Harrison, Lindsey Bright & Michelle Datiles, all graduate students in the digital curation class of Dr. Jane Zhang, Catholic University of America

Lindsey, Lea and Michelle with Chevy Chase Librarian Dave Gantt.  Photo by Jane Zhang.

Lindsey, Lea and Michelle with Chevy Chase Librarian Dave Gantt. Photo by Jane Zhang.

Inspired by the Library of Congress’ Personal Digital Archiving initiatives, our small team of three Catholic University of America grad students in the Library & Information Science Department created an outreach event for our Digital Curation course to coincide with National Preservation Week 2014.  We wanted to promote personal archiving (versus institutional), and focus on senior citizens as our specific audience, recognizing their invaluable role in preserving the story behind their personal and family collections.

After deciding our focus and audience, we brainstormed about the best way to get the message through to our audience and decided on a workshop format.  The first venue that came to mind was a public library or community center, where we would have the right kind of setting: informal, friendly and welcoming.  We chose the Chevy Chase Library, a branch of the DC Public Library system, because of its wide variety of activities for different ages, and its proximity to several senior residences, including Knollwood and Chevy Chase House, making it easy for residents to come to our workshop.

Chevy Chase Library.  Photo by Michelle Datiles.

Chevy Chase Library. Photo by Michelle Datiles.

After putting together a preliminary plan for a workshop focused specifically on photo preservation, we proposed our idea to the Chevy Chase Library. They responded enthusiastically and we ramped up our workshop preparations.  As we worked on the content, we thought it would be best to divide basic personal photo archiving into three steps: scanning, saving/storing/organizing, and sharing the digital files.

Instead of concentrating on physical preservation of photos, we wanted to focus on helping our audience take care of their digital images.  We wanted to teach them basic scanning tips so they would be comfortable scanning their own photos, including how to operate the scanners available to them in the Chevy Chase Library if they didn’t have their own.  Other ‘how to’ skills included in the workshop were: general tips for organizing and naming photos once digitized, how to transfer files from different sources (e.g. emailed photos and photos on Facebook, etc.) and how to share photos via various photo sharing sites.

The general theme we wished to promote through the entire workshop was the importance of ensuring that the people, events and stories behind someone’s photos would not be lost over time for lack of documentation.

Lindsey with patron.  Photo by Jane Zhang.

Lindsey with patron. Photo by Jane Zhang.

Parallel to working on the workshop materials, we created a ‘companion website.’ This way, anyone attending the workshop would have not only the printed workshop materials but also an online resource for future reference.  The website has about a dozen mini-tutorial videos on scanning, saving/storing and sharing photos.  By visiting the website, participants can spend more time on whatever part of the workshop they’re more interested in or need more help in, e.g. how to transfer files, and go at their own pace.

We also included a Library of Congress video on the importance of personal archiving and how it benefits not only yourself but also your family, community and society as a whole.  The website also features links to a variety of Library of Congress online resources, including the Library’s webpage for Personal Archiving and several useful fact sheets and ‘best practices’ tips.

Michelle and Lea during Q and A.  Photo by Jane Zhang.

Michelle and Lea during Q and A. Photo by Jane Zhang.

One of the best parts of the actual workshop was that the members of our small audience understood the importance of personal archiving.  Given the small group, it was quite interactive and we were able to address everyone’s specific questions.  During the section of our workshop about saving and organizing photos, one of the participants asked about PC versus Mac functionality, specifically how to print off a list of all of the files on her PC.  We suggested opening a list of the files and taking a screenshot using the Print Screen button on the keyboard.

Towards the end of our workshop, while we were discussing sharing pictures, another patron asked about whether we knew of any companies or services that would scan and/or save a large amount of material for her.  We didn’t know of any, but suggested perhaps a camera company, to see if they would do something like that.

Patrons were also interested in “outsourcing” portions of their personal archiving projects so we encouraged them to contact CUA’s Library and Information Science department and propose this as an opportunity for graduate students.  Having a webpage full of the resources we described earlier is a good complement to our ‘live’ workshop since participants have that resource now that our 2014 Preservation Week workshop is complete.

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