When eight feet of water is swarming the top and bottom of your home, the last thing on your mind are sentimental memorabilia such as photo albums. Yesterday, I volunteered at one of the temporary shelters in Brooklyn set up for Hurricane Sandy victims. Many whom I spoke with have lost everything—they arrived at the shelters with the clothes on their backs and important identification documents secured in the hand-made, umbrella fabric pockets sewed on the inside of their pant and skirt waistlines. When helping to sign people up for FEMA, many didn’t have mailing addresses or e-mail accounts. In a sense, they were displaced online as well as offline. After listening to their stories one by one, I began to think about the important role cloud storage services play in archiving and preserving memories. I began to ask myself what I would do if I lost my computer, photo albums, and my everything. Here are the answers to my own questions that can serve as advice for preserving, restoring, and building memories post Hurricane Sandy.
What can you do to prevent losing memories again?
To prevent losing memories again, be sure to scan any print photographs and back them up to your PC, external hard drives and cloud storage platforms such as Google Drive. If you have digital photos, you should still save them to cloud-based Web sites in case of property loss or deletion by social networking sites. One valuable feature of most services is automatic syncing, which means the user doesn’t need to remember to backup files every week or month; the service does the backup automatically at predetermined time intervals. What is most appealing about cloud storage services is that they don’t require buying more “stuff,” no hard drives, server boxes or anything you have to keep track of. Your data is housed in the virtual sky—the cloud.
What can you do with damaged photos?
If you managed to keep the hard copies of your photos but they have been severely damaged, you may be able to restore them. Photo restoration is highly dependent upon the photo process. According to Paul Messier, a Boston-based expert on the conservation of photographs and works on paper and a consultant to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, some photographic processes or more resilient than others. He says restoration is highly dependent upon the duration of the exposure to water, and it’s highly dependent upon the response. It’s very important to restore these precious memories quickly because the more time goes by, the greater the chance that the photos will not be recoverable in any way. Messier explains that a traditionally made, fiber-based, black and white silver gelatin print that has not been mounted has the greatest potential to weather this kind of damage. Dye-based prints on the other hand are a guaranteed total loss.
What can you do if you lost all of your photos?
While most things can be replaced with time, precious photographs serving as our physical memories cannot be. But there is light at the end of a tunnel–a new effort called Souls Rebuilt is offering FREE family photos to Hurricane Sandy survivors in order to help them rebuild their memories. Both photographer volunteers and survivors may sign up here.