Preserving the stories behind the photographs

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Photographs and portraits for sale in antique stores hurt my heart. There must be descendants or someone somewhere who would treasure a glimpse at the faces.....only because the photo is unlabeled, no one has any idea who the people in the pictures even are.

Jessica of Oh,The Joys is in the midst of the heartbreaking process of cleaning out her grandparents house after their passing.
In addition to deciding what to do with familiar household items that have suddenly acquired greater significance, her sadness is compounded by the mysteries and untold stories contained within boxes of unlabeled photographs.
The year tells me that this is a photo of my grandparents with my mother.
Where had they been or where were they going?
More importantly, what were they thinking?
What pieces of their lives have I missed?

Last night I opened my own box of random photos -- the kind that aren't album worthy -- and began recording names, places and years on their backs.
I believe in the power of stories.

Jessica's eloquence even in grief is an important wake-up call to make time to look at family photographs with your own children. Share the stories behind the scenes, why the kid in the foreground was throwing a tantrum, who the tall man is, why that outfit was special. Then write a little notation on the back. Don't worry if the ink is acid-free or of archival quality, anything is better flipping over a photograph and being confronted with a sea of whiteness.

Over the holidays, when extended families tend to gather, repeat the process with their pictures, especially those from the older generations. Set up a scanning party and download and label treasured family photos into a site like Flickr, where fire, flood, and time can't take them from you.

Your children and the children of your children will be grateful.

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