Families scan their way through their past

November 20, 2012

When a nearby fire threatened to destroy her home, Wall Street Journal contributor Kathleen Hughes realized she needed to digitize the many letters, photographs and articles she kept in her house.

As part of her "Scanning My Life" project, Kathleen began scanning over 4,000 photographs and 2,000 pages of letters and other documents – the whole project took four months. Though a tedious process – individually placing each item face down in the scanner – Kathleen searched through generations worth of records, including information related to her mother's first marriage and subsequent divorce, as well as letters from college friends and boyfriends.

Her essay inspired other readers to share their digitizing experiences, with many admitting that they tried to do the same with family documents and photographs. One reader scanned 7,000 photos from the 1890s, and another is scanning all the letters her parents wrote to each other during World War II. Another reminded other readers of the importance of backing up digital records and using online resources to ensure once these items are scanned they are safe.

One reader in particular suggested using a scanning service to get the best quality, after going through boxes of photographs that hadn't been opened in almost 30 years.
"The whole bunch were scanned to three DVDs," Lincoln Wolverton, a reader said. "The quality was very high, and the albums were scanned page by page, so the relative content of picture to picture was maintained. Some pictures dated from, it appears, the 1880s."

While some individuals may enjoy going through old documents while scanning, using a service can decrease the amount of time and increase the quality of the items scanned. By using bulk scanning services, individuals, and especially businesses, can more efficiently organize the digitizing of large volumes of documents.