Last month, my grandmother passed away at the age of 95. Ruth Vanderploeg was in amazingly good health, living independently in the home she and my grandpa had shared for over three decades, walking regularly, entertaining guests and even teaching English. She suffered a massive stroke, and never regained consciousness. She passed away a few days later. She was a terrific woman, and I will always remember the difference she made in my life.
As our family gathered and began taking care of the house and belongings, we discussed what to do with the boxes of old photos. There were some terrific old photos of family and friends, some of them over 100 years old. A rich tapestry of family history that really belonged to all of us. We split up a few of the obvious ones — I got a lot of pictures from my childhood — and I suggested that for many of the others, we could share them online.
Why share them online?
First, our family is literally spread all over the world. My mom is in China, my brother in Denver, my kids in Tennessee, New York City and Maine. Aunt Mary lives in New Mexico, Pat lives in Eureka… you get the picture.
Secondly, in many of the photos we couldn’t place the location, date or even some of the people in them. Posting them online allowed the entire family to share their knowledge. “Oh yeah, that’s Uncle Alf!” or “That one’s from 1952!”
Finally, sharing them online would allow everyone a chance to download and print whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. By sharing them on the web, we all have a copy.
How to Create a Photo Archive Online
One of the first things I had to do was decide where to share the photos. I considered Flickr and Facebook, but not everyone has (or wants) accounts on those platforms, and it was important that everyone be able to add comments. So I decided to create a photoblog using WordPress (which is free). I’ll be building it on the StudioPress Genesis framework (I already have a developer license) and starting with the Landscape child theme. I’m hosting it on my own server, and I’ll be creating a mailing list using MailChimp (also free up to 1,000 subscribers). And I’ll scan and upload several new images every week, along with an email update to the friends and family that have subscribed.
My plan is to have one photo per post, though I may group photos from a single event on the same post. Each post will be tagged with relevant names, places and dates. This way you could easily retrieve all photos of Grandma Moeller, or from a specific year or place.
The entire project will be hosted at http://photoarchives.www.jeffhester.net/
Have you created a photoblog? Got any advice or tips to share? Leave a comment and pass them on. And I’ll be sharing updates on my progress as I get further into the project.