The Best Ways to Digitize Your Family's Home Videos, Tapes, and Photographs
Preserving your old family photos and videos will mean that future generations can get a glimpse into the lives of their ancestors. "From my personal experience, very little of my family's history is preserved so I don't have much to look back, especially when I see so many families having their memories preserved so well through my work at the library," says David Roberts, reference and social media librarian at Kent State University Libraries. "I think it helps to stitch together the stories you may hear passed down from relatives and pictures help to create a narrative of times and people you may have never met." Originally recorded videos and photos can become lost, destroyed, or merely degrade in quality over time. Digitization, which refers to converting physical forms of media into computer-readable copies, is one of the best ways to hold onto these memories for much longer. Ahead, here are some resources at your disposal.
Resources at the Library
Digitization equipment and tools can be expensive, but you don't necessarily need to purchase your own equipment to preserve family photos. In fact, many public libraries have what you need. "At our library, we can only offer the service of digitizing their photos for them using an archival quality scanner. After the digitization, we will email the digitized photos to the patron and this is all a free service," explains Roberts. "We have also started a local history archive and will ask patrons if they have any interest in their photos being included in the project. As for home video digitization, I know several libraries in their MakerSpace centers have the technology to convert home videos to digital."
Check with your local library to see if they have photo and video scanners that can digitize these materials for you. While you may have to pay a fee to use these services, the cost will be much lower than if you purchased your own professional archival-quality scanning equipment. Microform scanners, for example, can be used to create microfilm and microfiche copies of your family media materials. These tools are used by professional archivists and historians to digitize historical documents and media.
DIY Digitization Methods
You can find digitization tools for preserving your memories online as well. For instance, the Rybozen Mobile Film and Slide Scanner ($31.99, walmart.com) converts 35mm film slides and photo negatives into digital versions using your smartphone. You can also use a device like the Epson Perfection V39 Advanced Flatbed Color Photo Scanner ($99.99, bestbuy.com) to scan your photos and documents and save them to Google Drive or other cloud services. For videos, try the ClearClick VHS to Digital Converter ($149.95, walmart.com); this device records your VHS home videos in digital format.
An even easier way to digitize your photos requires nothing but your smartphone. Good lighting and a high-quality smartphone camera, as well as positioning the frame, are essential for capturing your photos with your smartphone. And, if you have the time and inclination, you could watch your home videos on VHS and hold up your smartphone to record the videos. Get a smartphone tripod and position it at the right angle and distance. Sound could be heightened by adding an audio recorder attachment to your smartphone as well. The quality may not be as high as a video converter but it is an option for digitizing your videos.
And as a final suggestion? Hire a service: the Legacy Box Digitizing Kit (from $27, legacybox.com) lets you digitize both VHS home videos and photo prints. Simply send in your materials and the company does it for you, then you can receive a a digital download, a thumb drive, or DVD. You can also get cloud backups of your digitized memories.