Archive | Preservation

The posts in this blog describe how to preserve your photos and documents. Be prepared for loss such as a natural disaster.

DIY Photo Drying Techniques

[Editor’s note: Flip-Pal Ambassador Mary V. Danielsen - founder of - provides techniques for drying photos based on her experience with Superstorm Sandy.]

In disaster recovery you have to move fast to recover any possessions before mold sets in. Imagine if the worst case scenario happened to your home. The first things you reach for are your forgotten valuables and your photos, which are now covered in water, mud and housing materials.

Don’t throw out your photos and family documents. They may look like a muddy wet mess when you retrieve them, but there is plenty of hope for restoring them. Your first priority, however, should be to thoroughly dry them.

If you have the financial means to send your photos to a professional conservator, by all means, do it. If not, then ignore the traditional rules of photo conservation and focus instead on doing the best you can at the moment with the resources you have.

You can rescue your family history, but don’t expect to clean, dry and restore the actual images to their original locations in frames or albums. You have to expect to clean your images enough to get some restored and the remainder reprinted. Otherwise your original photos will continue to deteriorate at a faster rate than undamaged photos.

Consider these quick photo drying techniques that can used anywhere with possessions you may already own or that can be bought inexpensively at most stores. The techniques below assume most households may be without electricity for a period of time following a disaster.

Put it on ice
If you have electricity, however, put your wet photos in plastic bags in cold storage, such as a freezer, until you can work on them. Allow adequate time for photos to defrost before you start drying and restoring them.

Container Of Photos

Grab some containers
Separate your photos into small batches. If possible, position them vertically in buckets or paint trays. Recycle anything you have to create drying containers. This assists drying and helps to loosen dirt.

Always dry photos vertically
If you lay your photos on a flat surface it may exacerbate the prevalence of mold growth on the back. Vertical drying is faster.

Stringing Photos To Dry

Drying rack of photos

Clothes lines
String inexpensive clothes lines or twine across a room and use spring-loaded plastic clothes pins to hang them to dry. Clip the corner of a photo and hang it on a diagonal. An inexpensive clothes line can help dry thousands of photos quickly.

Folding clothes rack
Loop rubber bands and paper clips or binder clips over the rods of a folding clothes rack to hang images. Clothes racks can be placed outside in the sun and wind to dry photos quickly. A standard size folding rack can hold several dozen images.

Create space-saving photo drying racks by tying shoe laces to hangers like streamers and attaching photos with paper clips. With room to move and dry, you can fit 10-20 photos on a hanger with four strings.

Tub Photo Drying

Hanger Photo Drying

Bath Tub Drying
Use magnets and your car to dry images outside. This is a neat trick and prevents curling of the photos.

Use duct tape and string to create a clothes line across your tub. Hang the photos to dry using paper clips, plastic clothes pins or binder clips on the corners. On the standard size tub you can dry about 100 photos.


You’re not cooking today
If you’re not using your oven while you’re working on your house, take out your oven racks and create a homemade drying rack. Clean the rack first to remove any food splatters. Position them between two chairs in the open air. Loop rubber bands or string over the edges and clip photos to dry. You can easily create another drying space for 30 photos.


A Passion for Helping Disaster Victims

[Editor’s note: Flip-Pal user James Coffeen sent a letter to suggesting a plan for action when devastation strikes and fires, floods and tornadoes threaten the loss of precious family photos.]

There is something I’d like to do. Several years ago, at a retirement home, I started scanning old photos for both residents and employees. One reason I did this was that many people have only one copy of a photo that is very precious to them and they are devastated if something happens to it. This was before Flip-Pal existed. I did the scanning in me and my wife’s apartment. I really didn’t want to be responsible for the loss of any of these “only-one” pictures, so I made it a rule that the person needed to bring the picture to the apartment, where I would scan it and hand it right back. This was a good rule, but it didn’t hold up in practice. For one reason or another I’d find myself responsible for holding the picture, often until the next day. I didn’t lose any photos, but the idea still chills me.
Then along came Flip-Pal and picture preserving was never the same. I’m in a different retirement place and have been too busy to scan for others again. But now that I have a Flip-Pal, it would work much better. I could use a public area in the facility, scan people’s pictures, and then hand them right back. I would not have to worry about having their property.

The recent tornadoes in Oklahoma got me thinking. We lived in towns in Oklahoma for several years and really liked the people there. I’d tell people I was “an Okie by druthers,” that is, that I wasn’t from there, but it would be my favorite place to settle. One of the news programs showed a man digging through the rubble of his house. The commentator described a certain picture the man was looking for and said he probably wouldn’t have much luck finding it. What a horrible natural disaster. That new story made me want to grab my Flip-Pal, some batteries and scan any pictures people did find in the rubble. Unfortunately my idea won’t work too well since I’m 95 years old, one-legged and use a wheelchair. Even though I’m in good health, I’d be one more person to be taken care of by a hotel or something. Instead my alternative has been daydreaming and I have concocted a plan.

If I was there, people could bring me pictures, maybe damaged, but valuable to them and worth saving. After being saved they would be available for enhancement later. Scanning a lot of pictures, there would be a risk of getting them mixed up. So I thought up a nearly foolproof system. Somebody would bring me a picture. I’d have them write their name and address on a piece of paper, legibly. I’d be firm about having it legible enough that I could read it, without ambiguities. The paper would be smaller than the area the Flip-Pal scans. I’d open the Flip-Pal, put the paper face down, the photo face down on it, and scan. Then take the paper away, put the picture face down, and scan it. Then every scanned picture would be accompanied by a scanned address on a picture that couldn’t very well be mistaken for a different picture. I’d continue scanning people’s pictures and they’d be stored on an SD card. I could then go to a more comfortable place and make color prints of all the scans. Then I could put a print of the picture in an envelope, tape the address (maybe trimmed, but retaining enough of the picture to recognize) on the front, add a stamp and drop it in the mail.

There are variations to my plan. It would be nice to put several prints of the picture in the envelope. Also a note saying how they could contact me and order more prints, either paid or free, depending on my resources and how generous I felt. The same idea would work for enlargements. For big pictures that were on the wall, I’d get them out of the glass, scan in stages and stitch into a single picture.

I present this plan for any user who might want to try it or for the Flip-Pal company. But please, for your own sake, use the address-on-a-print. Then, if you somehow have a mix-up anyway, the address-on-a-print will tell the truth. If you think being careful is good enough, take this bit of advice from my experience — it ain’t. Any method, even this one, can be goofed by getting in a hurry or not paying attention.


Before Disaster Strikes

[Editor’s note: Flip-Pal employee Diane Miller discusses proactively preserving family memories.]


The tragedy of a natural disaster surrounds us this summer in our community of friends and neighbors here in Fort Collins, Colorado. This morning I awoke at 1:00 a.m. to the smell of smoke from the nearby wildfire. I got up, turned off the outside fans and closed the windows. When I saw this morning’s paper, tears flowed as I read about 57 more homes being destroyed by the fire.

The last two weeks in Fort Collins have been like living next to a fierce campfire. Daily, smoke and ash cover the skies, our cars and our yards. I can clearly see plumes of smoke from my front door as they rise above the surrounding foothills. The flames—which at times have reached 200 feet into the air—have destroyed more than 250 homes and burned over 80,000 acres. A single home with a family’s memories burned to ash is difficult to imagine, let alone more than 250.

Wildfires, Hurricanes and Other Disasters

Besides the Fort Collins area, wildfires have been raging elsewhere in Colorado as well as in Utah, New Mexico and California. In addition to these fires, the hurricane season is barely under way in the Atlantic and there have already been four named storms—a record number for this early in the year. Flash floods, tornadoes and other disasters, both natural and man-made, are a common occurrence in areas of the U.S. and worldwide.

Proactively Preserve Your Family Memories

Instead of risking the loss of your family memories, what if you digitally archived them and stored them in several places? You could digitally backup your photos and documents on a thumb drive and store it in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box. You could digitized your photos and keep the originals in a safe place. You could even upload your digital images to the cloud via an online storage site.

A Backup Plan Using the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and the Picture Keeper

As the family historian, I have devised a backup strategy for all of my valuable photos and documents. First I scan my original documents and photos with my Flip-Pal and store the scanned images on my computer’s hard drive. Then I plug the The Picture Keeper USB thumb drive into my computer’s USB port and it copies all of the scanned images onto the drive.

The Picture Keeper is an amazingly easy to use backup tool. The included software keeps track of previously copied images so that the next time you plug it into your computer it detects any new pictures you’ve scanned and copies them to the thumb drive!

I back up all my scans and photos to the Picture Keeper and then I put it in a safety deposit box at my bank. At the beginning of each month I get my Picture Keeper from my safety deposit box, plug it into my computer and backup any new scanned items.

Now is the Time to Create Your Back Up Plan!

Whatever your preferred method of digitally archiving your family memories—please make sure you regularly back them up and store them in a safe place.