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Mason County Memories

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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News

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History Column Dave Petersen So you've been doing all the hard work of documenting your family history, you've met with the relatives, sorted through old records, copied all the photographs and obituaries that you could find. You have a cedar chest or two filled with memorabilia......... NOW WHAT? Well, hopefully you have the information in a computer program of some type, and made back ups, and you have scanned and photocopied everything else. The problem is that technology and software changes at lightening speeds these days. Can you imagine if you had your electronic media saved on 5.5 inch floppy disks, or even the smaller floppy disks which are used so widely that a floppy drive no longer comes on a computer. Your family films, the 8mm ones are copied and transferred onto Beta format tapes, and then onto VHS for safe keeping. Except that VHS also deteriorates over time and VHS players are fast becoming extinct. So now they must be transferred onto DVD's for safe keeping but how long will that format last before the next best thing comes along? Just don't take a marker and write across the back of the DVD. I have read that over time the marker ink can penetrate the surface of the DVD and corrupt the data. We've gone from film to tapes to DVD's in a 30 year span. What's next? Photographs fade, they discolor, depending on when they were taken the sizes of the developed pictures vary dramatically. Remember the poloroid cameras and the instant pictures that didn't need to be sent out to be developed? What if the negatives are on the once popular disc format? Does anyone even develop those anymore? At least 35mm negatives and slides can be scanned, saved and printed. Part of the solution is to make hard copies of everything that you can and to preserve your photographs and documents with archival acid free materials. The new inks for photo printers claim to be good for 200 years, we won't be here to make a claim if they don't and while I would tell you to save the receipt the ink on the thermal paper they used would fade away long before that. Most of the new albums use acid free paper, manufacturers are savy enough to know that people want to preserve their memories. The old albums with the gluey pages and clear plastic covers are disasters of the past. Scrapbooking is the newer fad to come along and I'm sure that 100 years down the road the genealogist of 2110 will treasure them. We each must take our turn to preserve our families memories with the best available technology and the baton must pass then to the next generation that comes along that will hopefully carry on the good work that you have started. There is a limit I think as to what one person can do and afford to do. Trying to reformat every item you have into the new media each time a new one comes along and you could go broke trying to keep up. At some point packing a VHS tape player and a DVD player away for the next generation might be what you have to do. Save it, and preserve it the best that you can. Pic1 A tintype showing Mary Ellen Bryte prior to 1865. Tintypes were the first really affordable photograph for the masses, unfortunately most are not identifiable as they did not lend themselves well for making notes on the back. The format was popular for about 40 years and photographers used it into the 20th century. Pic2 A Cabinent card showing Minerva Mostoller in 1894, this format came along after the tintype and was popular during the 1870's to just after the turn of the 20th century. The format required a person to pose and not move so most images seem stuffy and formal. Pic3 Anna Belle Racey is the crew boss of this group of fruit pickers in the 1920's. Cameras were accessible to the masses by 1908 and candid snapshots were the special of the day. People were free to be themselves and these informal snapshots of everyday life make for a rich tapestry of a families history. Pic 4 Things didn't change that much during the 20th century except for color pictures and slides. Earl and Fern Shaw are heading out for Ludington's centennial in 1973. The big changes in the last 100 years came with digital cameras and home photo software. The worry of the cost of film and developing it is gone now but digital images can be easily lost as well. Whats next?

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