How to save your precious pictures

Ever since they began carving pictures into cave walls, human beings have sought to preserve the story of their lives. For nearly 200 years, photographs have been an important way to document special events and memorable moments. They provide a v...

Ever since they began carving pictures into cave walls, human beings have sought to preserve the story of their lives.

For nearly 200 years, photographs have been an important way to document special events and memorable moments. They provide a visual connection to our ancestors-we can spot shared physical characteristics and see how fashions and hairstyles changed.

How should you preserve this memorabilia for your family, as well as future generations?

You could follow the example set by Mike Lorenson of Thief River Falls, who made a set of CDs for his relatives, the descendants of his grandparents, Jane and Melvin Lorenson, of Greenbush, Minn.

"My grandma has taken an unbelievable amount of photos through the years," Lorenson said. "Nearly every year, she had a new photo album. (Photography) was a key part of her life."


When he was growing up, those old photos provided hours of entertainment.

"Every time we visited her, we would grab the photo albums," he said. "It was a really fun time."

Jane Lorenson created a well-organized and labeled collection that chronicled the history of her family and the local area.

"She had a massive amount of photographs she didn't want to leave to ruin," Mike Lorenson said.

"There are photos that go back to the early 1900s, including pictures of our folks who came over from Norway and other parts of the world."

Jane Lorenson became a reliable historical source, he said.

"In Roseau County, if someone was looking for a picture of something, my grandma became known as the person who has a photo of it. She knew the date, the names."

In 2013, when she was in her mid-80s, he broached the subject of how to preserve and share them with the family.


"We talked about what to do with the albums, (because) 'We all want the photos,' " he said.

He suggested she scan them to create a CD that could be shared.

Although she "totally hated" computers, she agreed, and with his help and equipment he gave her, she scanned the albums "page by page," Lorenson said. "It took her several months."

The entire collection filled 10 CDs.

"I was just blown away by how much time she gave to do this. I was so impressed with her," he said. The result is "a very professional, beautiful binder of photos that someone can bring to any photo shop and have photos made."

Too often, older people underestimate their ability to navigate the digital world, he said. "They don't realize their potential to grasp new technology.

That year, a complete CD set, titled "Lifetime of Memories," was given as a Christmas gift to adult family members.

Lorenson remembers his grandmother saying she was "so embarrassed" because the cost was much less than she usually spent on gifts, he said. "I told her, 'Grandma, this is priceless.'


"For me, it's about preserving the heritage of our family. If you lose your heritage, you forget the struggles your family went through. ... Photos like these are so absolutely precious."

Preserve your memories

Here are a few ideas for preserving photos:

Digital photo album: To make a digital album, scan photos to a file that can be copied into a DVD.

If the idea of scanning photos yourself is not enticing, look into the many online services, such as or, or storefront businesses that will do this work for you. For a little extra cost, some services will fix cracks, scratches and other imperfections in the photos.

Online, you usually can rearrange pictures and change the name of the albums

With commercial scanning services, you also can scan slides and negatives to DVD and convert film and video to DVD.

As an additional safety measure, you can use services such as Dropbox, which allows you to back up photos and other documents on the Internet while still allowing you access on your computer.


Archival photo preservation: One of the easiest ways to organize your original photographs is to group them by size. You can purchase archival plastic sheets, with pockets, which are available in many sizes to hold almost any popular-size original, even if it is mounted on a mount board.

If you prefer to organize photos by date, you'll need several extra pocket sleeves to accommodate the various sizes that were popular over the years.

Most people are not aware that color photos, especially those that are displayed, will not last more than 50 years. So, one of the best ways to organize the photos you take today is to store them in archival pocket sleeves.

You can organize old negatives the same way (an archival sheet usually holds one roll of film). Always keep negatives separate from photos. If something happens to your photos or albums, your negatives still will be available to reprint your treasured family heirloom.

Scrapbooks: With all the doodads, patterned paper and assorted accessories to jazz up each page, you can customize to your heart's content, but photos are still likely to be the mainstay of your special album.

You can organize each book to cover a time period, an event, a location (such as a vacation), or an individual. Keep your original photos intact, you don't want to ruin a one-of-a-kind photo. Crop copies instead.

Be sure to handle old, fragile pictures with care. Use white cotton gloves when handling photographs or wipe them with a soft cotton cloth to remove fingerprints. Through the years, acid from your fingerprints can eat away at the emulsion.

Always use as little adhesive as possible for your scrapbook photos. Or, use no adhesive at all; opt instead for photo corners or other alternatives.


Wall-art collage: If you like the idea of daily living with your treasured photos, consider a wall display. Select photos that stir happy memories of a vacation, wedding or other special event. Or, focus on a person, like a collage of intermittent snaps of a growing child. (Use copies of vintage photos, though, to avoid exposure to degrading sunlight, humidity or heat.)

To begin, paint the edges of some wooden blocks with multisurface craft paint. When dry, apply a thin layer of decoupage to the block and then place your photo on top. When the photo is in the desired position, let it dry flat. Hang blocks in a grid pattern, a shape, or any configuration you please.

If you plan to hang your blocks with a nail, hammer in the hook before starting this project. Better yet, use removable Velcro hangers, which don't harm the wall and allow the art to hang flat.

Requiring less than 30 minutes and $30, this project packs impact that's delightful.


Find a video of the Lorensons' collection of family photos at

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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