Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Flash Drives

Still on the organizing topic… making sense out of chaos…

How many flash drives? I started accumulating all in one spot… So far I have found eleven of various sizes, shapes and colors. I’m sure more are hiding around our house.

How to organize? How to identify what is on each one?

I used the small, round key tags to label each with a number. The number refers to a piece of paper with a copy of the contents which I captured using a “snipping tool” and transferred to a WORD document.

Unfortunately, during this process, I did NOT find the missing photos I was hoping might have been put on a flash drive. Perhaps I will find the photos on another flash drive when it surfaces.

Remember, however, do NOT use flash drives as a back up. These handy gadgets are not known for stability. Intended use is merely to transfer data or for short term storage.



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Dust & Grime

I have written about the shelving in my genealogy room, approximately 110 linear feet of shelving, most of it is the heavy duty steel, office type. Unfortunately, no adjustable shelves, but three-ring binders fit comfortably with 3+ inches of clearance at the top (enough room to pile loose papers on top of the binders). Fortunately, the shelving is a cream color, not a warehouse grey.

It has been twelve years since we added onto our house and created my lower level genealogy room. While moving items from the shelves to the filing cabinets, I have made an interesting discovery. Dust and grime have settled into the tops of my notebooks, scrapbooks, photo albums and piles of papers! Imagine that!

It is a good thing I am moving most of the notebook materials and loose papers into the filing cabinets. This should be a safer environment for them.

By the way, the filing cabinets are sitting on 2″x4″ blocks to allow ventilation under them, and we have two dehumidifiers in our basement and keep a close eye on their function.

However, what about the scrapbooks and photo albums? Currently many of them are laying on my shelves, gathering dust and grime. As I’ve toured Iowa’s various repositories I’ve noticed that many archives store scrapbooks in preservation boxes. I have too many scrapbooks in too many odd sizes to do this within my retirement budget.

However, while visiting another archives, I noticed many of their scrapbooks were wrapped in something and laying on the shelves. I asked the archivist what they use for wrapping their scrapbooks. Tyvek was the answer. Light bulb flash in brain: what about using the tyvek product that is used in home construction? Would that be any cheaper than ordering tyvek from a preservation company?

I started my research, reviewing websites for three archival supply companies (Gaylord, Hollinger Metal Edge, and Light Impressions), pages for building construction materials (Lowe’s and Home Depot) and searched for general information on “tyvek.” Findings: Materials from both the archival supply companies as well as the building construction companies are labeled “tyvek.” DuPont owns the rights to the tyvek product name. Tyvek is a light weight, pH neutral, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) product that protects from water, dirt, dust, UV rays, and is resistant to tearing, mold, and mildew. Sounds like the perfect product for preserving scrapbooks!

My husband thought I’d have to buy a roll 12 feet wide and miles long costing hundreds of dollars. But I discovered that Lowe’s sells a 3′ x 100′ roll of DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap for $35.99. This fits my budget!

Would an archivist agree with my thinking? I submitted a query to the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) email list. A respected archivist responded, “You are correct. Tyvek is tyvek.” Another professional responded with the reminder, “The only difference is that the Tyvek used on buildings has a logo on it. As long as that side isn’t facing the item you’re protecting (I know, you didn’t need me to tell you that), you’re fine.”

Hurrah! Looks like I have figured out how to keep dust and grime out of my scrapbooks and photo albums. Looks like I need to find hours in the day to do another project!

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A Bountiful Harvest: The Midwestern Farm Photographs of Pete Wettach, 1925-1965 by Leslie A. Loveless, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City 52242, 2002

Sometimes we are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Recently, a friend handed my husband a book saying, “This book has Marieta’s name on it!” It didn’t really, but she suspected I’d be interested. My friend was helping a family downsize their mother’s things. This book was among the collection.

As I read the book, I was fascinated by the story and I was fascinated by the photographs.

Pete Wettach preserved images of Iowa farm families in the 1930s, 1940s, into the 1960s. By day he worked for the Farm Security Administration (later the Farmers Home Administration) which helped small farmers purchase land. Pete had ample access to the families as he travelled from farm to farm visiting his clients and helping to guide the families in their farm and household management decisions. While not an official government photographer, Pete was interested in the story that could be told about the lives of the people he worked with, so he often set up his camera and family members posed for photographs. In the evenings, Pete would develop the negatives and print the pictures, then he would sell many of his photos to the farm magazines. Sometimes the families had the privilege of basking in momentary stardom when their friends saw their picture in a popular farm publication.

In A Bountiful Harvest, Leslie Loveless does a great job helping the reader understand the significance of Pete’s labor of love.

Several facets of this book hit soft spots with me. First, with her Brownie camera, my mother also took some pictures showing rural farm life beginning in the 1930s. Second, I grew up on a farm during the second half of Pete’s freelance photography career. Third, I have also had a darkroom, developing negatives and printing pictures, a couple times in my life. And, finally, the very last page provides information that could help genealogists with a little used resource. After doing a little more research, I plan to write about this.


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I’m on a roll with sorting and organizing! And the roll has gained such momentum that I want to work on it during nearly every spare moment! This is a good thing. I’ve tried to explain previously the enormity of the project I am facing; only my husband really knows. Let me assure you; it is huge!

My mother was typical of many (perhaps most) genealogists. She loved to do research and she did a considerable amount. Problems: 1) Mom only documented some of her sources and 2) she had difficulty organizing the information she found. For the most part she used the notebook method, but I’ve found multiple notebooks on the same surname, with much of the same information. To complicate the situation, she created a new family group sheet every time she worked on the family. I find photocopies of the same obituaries in multiple places. And, it isn’t unusual to find information for a completely different family surname stuck in the wrong binder. On top of that, I’m finding Mom was notorious for making notes for multiple surnames on the same piece of paper. Oh, my!

It isn’t just my mother’s collection I’m dealing with. My grandmother collected and saved, and my mother inherited a collection from her aunt and uncle. So, when I brought home the boxes, scrapbooks, photo albums, and binders from my mother, the contents was the conglomerate from all of these people. As I’ve worked on the materials, I’ve realized that my mother was overwhelmed!

Filing has never been my favorite activity, but I’ve been spending hours doing just that, and sort of enjoying it. I’m filing everything from Mom’s binders and boxes of loose papers into hanging folders in my file drawers. Some people would wonder “Why!” Why shouldn’t I just enter everything directly into a computer program? I’ve asked myself that question, also. However, I concluded that it is easier to get all of the information sorted using a filing system, first. That way when I enter someone into computer software, I’ll have everything that I know about that person in hand and won’t have to keep flipping from one person to another.

Mom should have owned stock in sheet protector manufacturing companies. Recently I told my husband that I can foresee the end of using large quantities of sheet protectors. I can see using archival sheet protectors for original documents; not for every family group sheet! I also told him that I foresee the eventual end of using hanging folders.

I hope I’ll live long enough to get these files scanned and the data entered into computer software. My goal to eventually write several books. Every step takes me closer to leaving something meaningful for future generations.

For now I need to get back to sorting and filing!

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Layer #1

Remember the Alka-Seltzer ad slogan, “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!”? Well, this post is not about stomach relief; it is about mental and emotional relief for both my husband and me as well as for our sons and their families!

When I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to write about was “making sense out of chaos.” Dave and I have inherited a lot of stuff. It has filled nearly every nook and cranny of our house and garage, including a large storage room on the second floor of the garage and two rooms in the lower level of our house. We have known that we needed to divest ourselves of some junk, so a couple months ago we started our Layer #1 project. Even though I was severely challenged with my broken arm, we started the sorting process.

Our goal was to have a garage sale and to donate the leftovers to our church’s garage sale later this summer. To locate items for our sale, we primarily sifted and sorted through the storage areas in the garage. If the items were in the garage they probably weren’t high-priority keepers. However, some other sale items were also identified in the house.

Nearly all of the items held memories… memories of people and times past. We set up a photo area, with a dark background and good lighting and took lots of pictures. We couldn’t keep all of the items, but we can hold onto the pictures and memories. Remember this was only Layer #1; we still have many items left with more memories of the same people.

Items deemed not worth selling were discarded. We also had one son with 26 boxes in our store room and he was invited to either take all of the boxes to his house or to sort through them and take the most valuable/memorable items to his house, he did the latter.

Most of the time we priced items as we photographed them, which saved considerable time later.

Eventually, I figured out to organize a pricing box. This consisted of ultra fine point Sharpies, wider markers, pricing stickers, wide and narrow masking tape, cellophane tape, scissors, 3×5 cards, string, and dust cloths.

We picked the date based on when the local newspaper was sponsoring a city-wide garage sale, which attracts many potential buyers. Our sale was one of 22 sales last weekend.

We received several compliments on our ad; interested people got a good idea of what we had:

Sat, 8-1. Unique garage sale. Lots of vintage & modern misc for home, yard, repurpose, woodworker repair, or photo props: pans, chairs, milk cans, iron beds, school desks, chests, AE bottles, harness, wagon wheels, sausage press, lots of cast iron, spinning wheel, butter churn, lamps, picture frames, window frames & much more; must see! No early birds/no checks.

One son and his wife helped us in several ways. In addition to our newspaper ad, she posted our sale on two websites: Indianola garage sales and Craig’s list; they included some items in the sale, and they ran the check-out station. They heard comments like, “Now, this is really a garage sale.” “This is the best garage sale in town today.” An app on their phones allows them to take credit/debit cards and they used it for a three or four customers. Otherwise, everyone paid cash. Using counterfeit marking pens made sure no one was handing out bad money; rumors indicate people may be using counterfeit money, even five-dollar bills, at garage sales.

Our sale items were all organized by group. Our garage was full as well as a large part of the concrete parking area behind our house. We set up two canopies to protect our merchandise from inclement weather if necessary, though our stuff extended far beyond the edges of the canopies. We lucked out with a chilly, but sunny, no wind, day.

In essence, we tried to make the sale as “professional” as possible, considering it was a “garage sale.”

Net result: we had 10-cent, 25-cent, 50-cent, $1, $5, etc. items. I think the highest priced item that sold was $40. The spinning wheel did not sell, nor did one of the school desks, and a few of the chairs. But we got rid of a lot of stuff and made a very surprising amount of money, enough to pay for some motel rooms and meals when we go on vacation later this year! We only have a few boxes of small items left to take to the church, and we have a few larger items to give them as those organizers get closer to sale date.

Prior to the sale, one of our daughters-in-law said, “your sons should thank you for this!”, knowing that if something happens to us, they will have to deal with our stuff.

While this was only Layer #1 and it was a lot of work, “Oh, what a relief it is!” The amount of junk in our storage room had been overwhelming. Now we have room to spare and feel a huge sense of emotional and mental relief! It was time!

I’m already thinking about potential items in Layer #2 and how we’ll divest them, maybe another garage sale, maybe not; we’ll see.

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The photo books with the images of Mom’s drawings and paintings (Thelma Pehrson, Artist) are here and look great. Mom signed each copy yesterday, so they are ready for distribution to family members and a few other places.

Books arrived quickly. I ordered the 14 books on Tuesday, received an email that they had been shipped on Thursday, and the box of books arrived on Saturday, via Federal Express. Hurrah for Shutterfly.com; I’ve been pleased with their service and product each time I’ve used them.

Now, we are just waiting for the copies of her memoirs to arrive. These books are supposed to be printed this week.

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Starting mid-December and while I’ve been working on my mother’s memoirs, I have also been working on a Shutterfly photo book of Mom’s artistic creations. For several years after she retired she took art lessons from a local professional, Doris Currier. (Doris’s husband, Dick, is also a distant relative.) Anyway, Mom started with pastels and eventually moved on to acrylics.

A couple years ago I got the idea of photographing as many of her pictures as I could find and creating some kind of photo book. Since only one person can have one of her original pictures, I felt a book would be an ideal way to share her work with all family members. Shutterfly is the company I’ve worked with on other projects, so it was natural that I would look at their format for this book.

When we decided to move her to a smaller apartment at the end of December, I knew this was my best opportunity to get the project rolling before even more of her pictures were distributed to family members. Dave and I set about to find as many of the pictures as we could. We photographed everything in Mom’s old apartment and we photographed what my sister had and what we had.

Recovering misplaced picture. Next Dave and I made a trip to the Warren County Historical Society because I knew that she had given them one of her pictures. We happened to pick a Saturday morning when the board was meeting, which turned out to be a stroke of luck. We looked around the entire historical building and did NOT find the picture. However, what we found was a vastly improved set of displays depicting our local history. It had been several years since we had wandered through their exhibits and we were quite impressed! Anyway, we explained our situation to the board and they promised to follow up. On Monday morning I received a call and they had found the picture! It had been put in a back corner of a closet, not realizing what it was. When Dave and I returned to the building the following Saturday, the picture was prominently displayed in the library where she had been librarian for ten years! (We will donate one of these Shutterfly photo books to the library.)

Discovering another picture. This last weekend we visited my brother in South Sioux City and photographed what he had. It wasn’t until I was processing the photographs when we got home that I discovered that he and his wife have one more picture than I thought they had. So, this required some rejuvenation in the format of the book that needs an even number of pages.

Book format. Except for one page, I have only put one picture on a page. The exception is a page that includes the only two portraits that Mom drew and they are of my two nieces. They fit very nicely on the same page and it just seemed natural to put them together. Otherwise, one picture per page. I have used a black background on all pages. This highlights the pictures. I have titled and numbered each picture and the titles and numbers are referenced in the table of contents. I have also included the size of each picture and its medium: acrylic, pastel, charcoal on the page with the picture. I put a photograph of her on the title page with a brief explanation of her life as an artist. I put her favorite picture on the front cover and again on the first page of the book. I sprinkled her best pictures throughout the book and concluded with a particularly beautiful picture.

Getting another opinion. Yesterday I thought I had the book finished. I had checked spelling, as well as caption and photo alignments and double checked the titles of the pictures with the titles listed in the table of contents. But I decided to contact our oldest son to have him look at the book. He is our art connoisseur. Since we are ordering multiple copies of the book and since each copy will be quite expensive (over $50), I wanted his eyes to see the book and his thoughts about the format. I primarily wanted to be sure I hadn’t missed something. So he came over last evening. The resulting benefits were huge.

First, he didn’t like the picture of her pastel pencils on the title page along with the photograph of Mom. OK, I can deal with that. I will move the photograph of her pastel pencils to the back cover. Then, he explained to me that artists’ work is generally divided into periods, so books usually reflect this. Well, we don’t have dates for most of Mom’s pictures, nor do we have the order in which she drew/painted them. So, he suggested that I put the pictures of people together, the still lifes together, and pictures of similar places together. I had generally done that, but not to the extent that he was suggesting. I am so glad I asked for his thoughts; his suggestions were worthy of taking a second look at the entire book.

Finding still another picture. Then, as nearly a side note, he and his wife asked, do you want the other one or two pictures that we have at our house? What? You have more pictures that I didn’t know about? Yes, they had two more pictures! I was flabbergasted! I had no idea that two more pictures were so close at hand, and were almost missed for this book!

Dave went over to their house, brought back the pictures and photographed them, and they will be added to the book.

I now feel confident that this book will be as good as it can be, once I rearrange many of the pictures and include the newly found ones. Total of 55 pictures of my mother’s art work.

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