Creating Your Legacy Photo Collection

Legacy photo albums

A legacy photo collection is a little different from the photos you have of family vacations, weddings, birthdays, and everyday life. But before getting into that I want to share a little about my background, as it ties into this. 

My first job in New York City was as a photo researcher at Bettmann Archive (later Corbis Images). The archive is famous for being the repository of some of the best-known photos of the 20th century. Some of those have been on my mind lately – specifically the photos of New York City during the 1918 Pandemic. 

I was here for some pretty life-changing events: 9/11, the 2003 Blackout and Superstorm Sandy. But I never expected to live through a pandemic like the one my grandparents experienced. The news photos on a daily basis showing the impact COVID-19 has had on New York City are eerie and heartbreaking. But there are also many uplifting stories of courage, sharing and community – also captured in photos. 

In times like this, we’re forced to stop everything and pivot to a new normal. For some families, this event has given them time to reflect and reassess their priorities. We take so much for granted with so little time to focus on some very important things. Family history, as told through our photos, is one of them.  

I’ve been in touch with so many people during this current coronavirus crisis, and I hear a common theme: we are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. With that in mind, now is a good time to think about your legacy photo collection, and to think about what needs to be done to be sure it’s intact. 

So, how does a legacy photo collection differ from the digital photos amassing on your phone? It will include the story of you, of course, as well as those who came before and after. It is an heirloom, the story of your people, your family and what you want future generations to know. The photos will be the ones you’ve inherited from parents and grandparents and other relatives, and the history that goes with them. They may be in albums or boxes or in slide form or even old home movie formats. Much like a legacy video, storytelling is the theme that binds the images to one another.  

The photos can also be of old letters, passports, and ticket stubs. They can be family trees, drawings or blueprints of homes and businesses, children’s artwork, and beloved family recipes. This sort of documentation serves as the framework for the images of your family through time. It helps tell your family story more fully. 

Here are some ideas to get you started as you collect and gather images:

• Think about the older generations in your family, and about the photos you may have that depict their stories. What are they?

• What photos and documents are integral to the family lore (i.e. the overcoming of obstacles?) How did the family thrive, cope, and persevere? 

• Ask children to explain what they love about family celebrations and if they are familiar with their origins. Are there any photos of these events? 

• How did parent / grandparents / aunts and uncles and other couples meet? Are there special photos of them together? 

Consider the photos and stories that convey important family values. These will be impactful for future generations. This is a difficult time for all of us, but we have a unique opportunity at present to preserve and share our stories. 

If creating a legacy photo collection resonates with you, I can help you in few ways: as a consultant, or I can do the organizing and preservation for you as a photo manager. Please contact me to set up a free call to discuss your ideas and options.