When I was in library school in the mid 1990s, the Internet was just taking off. There was some content online, but very few graphics and zero advertisements. I spent a lot of time gawking at Young Ones scripts using the Mosaic browser. It seemed miraculous at the time, even though nothing looked as fancy as it does now.

[To give you an idea of how things looked back then, here’s a link to Yahoo in 1996 — with thanks to the Wayback Machine for archiving it.]

Around this same time, library card catalogs were being converted whole hog into keyword searchable OPACs (Online Public Access Catalog). Some people were freaking out. I mean, well and truly losing it.

In response, the more pro-digital students created a term for anyone who resisted the coming digital tide:

Book hugger.

It was meant as a serious insult, which frankly seems odd for a library school, doncha think?

Anyhoo… If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’re familiar with my dire warnings about the fragility of digital records. Pay heed to these warnings, my friend. You would be crushed if your favorite photographs disappeared in the blink of an eye. So print your favorites and back up the rest on a regular basis. Right? Of course right!

Note: If you haven’t read my dire warnings before, you can find them all by clicking on the word “digital” in the left hand column. Or you can subscribe to my newsletter and get a free e-booklet titled “8 Blunders People Make When They Scan Photos…And How You Can Avoid Them.” That link is also in the left hand column.

Here’s the bottom line: All of us — archivists and non-archivists alike — need to learn a new set of skills for preserving digital photographs long term. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid digitization.

Why fight powerful tools like Photoshop Elements… something you can pick up for less than 100 bucks, fer cryin’ out loud. These tools help you restore a damaged photograph without having to spend years training as a conservator. And as far as I’m concerned, this fact alone justifies the extra preservation effort.

If you’ve got some time on your hands (I won’t lie to you, there is a steep learning curve for the more complicated moves) and you’d like to learn how restore your pictures yourself, you won’t find a better resource than RetouchPro. The forum and tutorials are free, but paid subscriptions are available if you’d like to chip in.

If you’re not interested in learning new software but you have a treasured family photograph that needs restoration, I can help. Clicking this link will create an email with the subject already filled in, all you have to do is click send. (I saved you a few steps with my HTML skillz, dawg!) In moments, you’ll get an automatic reply with our current price list for restoration and scanning work.

rharrison May 27, 2009 at 5:05 am

You should also mention Open Source applications like GIMP. Not only are they incredibly powerful tools but can be downloaded for free. Also the fact that they are Open Source means that the danger of them becoming obsolete or unsupported is vastly less than any proprietary application like Photoshop.

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