A couple of weeks ago, I spent the morning scanning a few photos selected from photo albums of 1981 & 1982, and saved, digitally, a total of 20 scans, or some 50 photos (2 – 4 in most scans), which includes about a fourth of the photos that I had saved from the albums (already triaged by half).
That represents two years--and two albums--out of perhaps forty. So I’ve done maybe 5% of the job that needs to be done to excerpt and “preserve” the family photos. Once the photos have been scanned and saved digitally, I asked myself: How long will it be possible to retrieve them as technology marches on? This gave rise to one of my trouble-with-technology moments, as I contemplated some infinite regression as I and my offspring endlessly copied increasingly distorted images of past events into more compressed and less visually accessible storage devices, for the sake of...
I have a few photographs of one grandmother and only two of the other. One of the photos is a copy of the original, and the graininess shows. That grandmother seems to have been beautiful but sad even as she was smiling slightly, her head tilted to one side for the camera. She died when my father was 15 years old, and I think he always felt her absence as an emptiness, although he almost never spoke of her. When we named my middle daughter Elisabeth, he seemed pleased to remind me that Elizabeth Adams had been his mother’s maiden name.
My mother photographed family events (Christmases, reunions, trips) with a movie camera using “Super-8” film which, after developing, we could view on a standing white screen using a projector that wound the film through it. I, too, took movies of family events, first with Super-8 film and then with a video camera (VHS). I had most of the family movies, including some of those from my mother, “copied” to VHS video tape, so that we would be able to view them on the TV screen, thinking that way to preserve them for future generations. But now, it’s virtually impossible to purchase the technology needed to view VHS videos. Luckily, I have an old TV with a video slot that still works, so I could watch them if I wished, as long as the video mechanism doesn’t jam or quit working (which has happened in the past with other machines).
I recently bought a VHS-DVD player/copier that, in theory, should be able to copy the VHS videos to DVDs. When I went looking for one at Best Buy, the sales person said they were on sale because the store wouldn’t be carrying VHS-compatible machines in the future.
So I sometimes feel like a monk in a scriptorium trying to copy, copy, copy, in the hope that at least some of what has been seen, done and thought by those I know and care about might, with luck, survive into the future, along with their blind and thoughtless DNA.