Undigitisability

8 Jan 2014

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Over Christmas, I leaned on my parents to let me dig out their photo albums, so that the photos could be removed and sent off for scanning (before being put back, of course). I plan to write up some thoughts and experiences from that process soon.

Sending off precious photos just to get them back with a CD isn’t too expensive, especially if you value your own time and the expertise of others; yes, there will be hassle and fiddliness, but it’s worth it, because non-digital photos are irreplaceable. Before trying with Mum and Dad’s prints, I’d tested out 1scan and was very pleased with their work, plus we were hanging on to the negatives, just in case. (I did try out negative scanning, too - but that’s a separate topic.)

I had estimated the cost in my head based on scanning selected photos out of the albums: the ones which show us, my family, not the (admittedly nice) “accompanying” shots of landscapes, buildings, statues and so on, unless they were memorable for a specific reason. Dad, though, ever the thoughtful type, surprised me with an observation. Those “accompanying” photos are important when you’re looking through a photo album. They set the scene; they trigger memories. People remember things by recalling “metadata” along with memories - where you were, what the weather was like, which building you were admiring just before the portrait - these things help you recall the actual event. You maybe only look at the personal photos, but in a physical photo album, you see the others at the same time. This is how albums initiate the remembering process, and viewing them occasionally acts as a kind of spaced repetition.

So for the first album, I’m getting every shot digitised. The attached photo is one of the auxiliaries. Will swiping through the images one at a time on an iPad generate the same memory triggers? Ultimately it doesn’t really matter, because Mum and Dad will retain the physical albums. I’m interested to see what they think of the nearest digital equivalent, though.

Tags: photo, digital, memory