My mother died three and a half years ago (aged 101 so she did well!). For the last years, increasingly frail and lonely after Dad died, she lived with us. All of my parents’ belongings – furniture, cooking utensils, books and so on accumulated over 70 years of marriage - all came to live with us too. And also photos, transparencies and films from their married life, the years bringing up my sister and me and our children, and from their travels abroad with many friends from France and Germany.
When I started to go through my Mum's things, photo albums, boxes, envelopes, handbags, drawers - each yielded a bounty of memories for me.
And sometimes mystery.
Because there were photos from my Mum and Dad's childhood and in their twenties. I recognised my Gran and Nan from when I was little and my maternal Grandad who was much loved and whose photo was displayed fondly at home. But who were these other people?
A lovely photo of an elderly lady in the garden with a dog – was she my Mum's Gran? Wedding photos with a host of small children as bridesmaids and pageboys - were they friends' children, cousins? I don't know, and now have no opportunity of finding out.
It's such a shame that the photos didn't have names written on the back, and of course transparencies only have a tiny frame for a label. One of the Heritage Group team recently recounted how she spent a year going through all the photos in her house, cataloguing them and carefully putting them away in boxes for her family to view when they are ready. I promise myself to do the same.
These days we are surrounded by images and videos which we take on our smartphones and share via Facebook, Instagram (or whatever's the latest app of choice!) and store on hard-drives or sticks or "in the Cloud". I do wonder how these digital images will last.
Over my life I've had a Brownie Box camera (black & white and you had to take the film into a shop and wait a week! But you put them in an album and sometimes annotated them), an SLR camera that took transparencies (boxes of them with hardly any labelled and you either bored people rigid showing them on a projector with the lights off or put them in a box and forgot them with their colour fading), various digital cameras and now - a smartphone. Great to be able to take photos and share right away, to be able to upload to websites and blogs and social sites without any scanning.
But where next? What technology will replace the jpgs and pngs we use now? Will we, or our grandchildren, be able to view or download them from whatever future platforms Google or Amazon or Microsoft think up? Technology moves on. Do you have a projector for your Super-8s or even a VHS player now?
Photographs weren't invented until around 1850 and printing for everyday public use was only available from the 15th century. Before that the images we have of people, usually only royalty, aristocracy or wealthy merchants and their families, were painted or sculpted in stone. They are at least reasonably enduring (with loving care and occasional restoration). To keep our memories for future generations it's probably wise to get photos printed, using the best printers or inks you can afford, or get a few special ones done professionally and hang on the wall.
And don't forget to put a label on the back with the date the photo was taken, location and the names and perhaps ages of the subjects.
Note: If you have local photos you want help identifying, please contact Coleorton Heritage Group who may be able to help. Many of our members have lived in the area all their lives and have long memories. Email email@example.com or phone Sandra on 01530 440000.