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Salvaging Water Damaged Photos

January 24, 2024

The following article includes excerpts from a true story shared with Artifcts by a member of the Arti Community and republished here with permission. May their loss help your future. 

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A Careless Accident at a Storage Facility 

Imagine yourself in this scenario: Wildfires are approaching your home. You evacuate, taking with you your most cherished possessions, including those incredibly vulnerable photos, videos, books, and family documents. You feel relief when you place them inside a climate-controlled storage unit far outside the fire zone. 

Days later you receive a call from the storage facility. There’s been an accident. Your storage unit has been flooded via a damaged sprinkler system in the unit above your own. “Please come to our facility to review and document the damage for insurance purposes.” 

Your heart sinks to the floor. The expression, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire,” comes to mind. 

When you arrive, and you are taking in the large-scale and surely emotionally charged loss, look once, then twice, before springing to action on areas of most obvious damage.

a description of the scene inside a storage unit with photos and document submerged in water

Salvaging Water Damaged Photos and Negatives

When mother nature, home mishap, or some other event occurs that threatens to rob you of your cherished memories incapsulated in your photos, there’s no room for “should haves.” We all know about fireproof boxes, digitization options, and more. But in life we are busy, and we have finite resources, too. We made the best choices we could at the time. Now is the time for action to salvage what can be salvaged.

  • Act smart, act fast

The most intriguing piece of advice you’ll hear when water has claimed your photos? Freeze them. That’s right, stick them in plastic bags and freeze them. Okay, first interlay sheets of wax paper and place them in a giant plastic freezer bag, but yes, then freeze them. That bit of advice alone should shock you into a feeling of hope. Store that tidbit away for the day you need it.  

supplies for working with water damaged photos  Stack of wet photos with parchment paper between each  Wet photos in a ziplock, set flat in a freezer

 
 
No freezer on site? Place the photos and albums in sealed plastic bags to prevent them from drying out completely and get them to a freezer. 

Your top goals are to prevent further damage and to bring back under your control at least some of the variables now, and frankly, for the remaining life of these items. Mold is an equally deadly culprit where the life of your photos are concerned. 

Talking us through the "I froze them, now what?” frontier, we reached out to professional photo manager Kristen Goodman, of Clicking with Kristen. Based out of Naples, Florida, Kristen is still helping families caught in the crosshairs of Hurricane Ian (2022) and has deep experience in helping salvage precious photos.

  • Embrace Kristen’s “Dont’s” 

You’re poised for action, which is great, but keep these guidelines in mind so we can skip the regret that you may otherwise feel later: 

      • Don’t panic and throw away your wet, muddy, or damaged photos or albums. 
      • Don’t dry photos in a place with bright sunlight, wind, or dust. 
      • Don’t pry wet or dry photos apart. 
      • Don’t use heat sources (hairdryer, microwave) to dry photos. 
      • Don't forget gloves and a mask when handling wet photos and albums. 
      • Don’t delay! After about 48 hours mold will begin to grow.
If you’re thinking this sounds tough, you’re right. Rescuing and restoring water damanged photos is a tedious and imperfect process. Check out this video from Clicking with Kristen, saving someone’s day with her skills!

 
 
 
  • Now, Onto the “Nexts” in the Mess

Be discriminating. Which photos do you want to spend time and money to preserve and potentially restore? For example, if you have very old heritage photos, the ONLY photo of {name of loved one}, you may want to prioritize these photos for consultation with a professional photo restoration service. 

Separating, soaking, and freezing photos. We warned you not to pry photos apart, and that advice holds. But if they are apart, remove any plastic covers and sleeves from the photos, if possible. And then layer wax paper between individual photos or album pages to freeze. 

If you’re thinking, “But I have a brick of stacked dried photos,” there’s still hope. You can soak them in clean water and then gently peel them apart, then proceed with drying them out, but when in doubt, talk with a local pro! 

Once your pictures have frozen, you’ll thaw them out in batches to begin drying. 

The photos’ futures. For those in acceptable condition (to you!), digitize them and toss the originals. They are very vulnerable to mold, it’s a sad truth. For the others, if they are important enough to you for any reason, take them to a professional for restoration, repair, and digitization.

 
 
Click the image to download our free inspiration checklist for Artifcting photos!
  • Go get professional help!

Amazing resources abound for you to learn more and to connect with professionals locally to help you. Here are just a few resources Kristen recommends: 

 

How Did the Storage Story End?

If you're like us and dislike a cliffhanger, here’s how the storage disaster we started this article with turned out:

The storage unit saga involved a lot of hard work to salvage important photos

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Timelines – Inspiration for Accidental Genealogists and Keepers of 'Stuff'

Reading time: 3 minutes

What happens when you come from a long line of genealogists and end up with three busy boys as the next generation? Genealogy and the desire to understand your heritage gets stalled…until you and your sons discover the Timeline view in Artifcts! 

Yes, I was one of the guilty parties. My mom has binders and binders of ancestry and genealogy information, can tell the stories about our family history ‘way back when,’ and has tried to tell us her story over the years. But if you were to ask me to tell you those stories about her, I’d look at you with a blank stare. I wouldn’t know where to start.  

That is until we discovered the Timeline view in Artifcts, and I saw my own life story revealed to me in a way I hadn’t seen before. You see, pun intended, I am a visual person and process information very analytically. Yes, it is interesting to see my family tree laid out with names and branches, but it doesn’t really tell me about the people, how they were wired, or how I might have been influenced by who they were or how they thought. When I understand those things about my ancestors and influencers, I gain perspective on my own heritage. 

Seeing my mother’s Timeline motivated me to create more Artifcts for my Timeline. As each new Artifct takes its place on my Timeline, it highlights one more life event, one more story, that shaped me. I could immediately see in my Timeline how my experiences, represented through my objects and stories, wired me to be who I am today. If my kids want to know who I am, why I place certain values on ambition and work, and why I work as much as I do to achieve and provide, all they need to do is look at my Artifcts Timeline.  

My Timeline now shows my world travel (creating an open and adventurous mindset); it shows my cadet days in the Civil Air Patrol (doing search, rescue, flying, and establishing the building blocks for my leadership style); it shows my days as a firefighter and EMT (helping people and being driven to serve); it shows my pilot experiences (adventure, focus, and determination); it shows my entrepreneurial experience (innovating and managing risk); and it shows my family and our shared experiences. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

So, to all of you who think you’ll get to it "someday," realize that someday may come too late. Start capturing your story one event or object at a time. When you open that box that’s been in the basement for 10 years and find something cool, Artifct it to tell the story using images, audio/video, and text. When you travel, take a photo of that menu or interesting memento and explain where you were and who you were with.

Once you get your Artifcts going and see them in your Timeline, you’ll have bursts of energy to go fill in the blanks, you’ll start seeing yourself for who you really are, and you’ll build out your story to carry your heritage to the next generation. And the best part? Your kids will love it too! 

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Traveling to Salt Lake City for RootsTech?

Stop by our Booth #1517 to hear Matt share more of his stories on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. MT and Saturday at 12 noon MT. 

You can also read previous ARTIcles Matt has written, including Father, World Traveler and Now Downsizer and Stuck In the Middle With Stuff

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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TIME Magazine Wants YOU ... to Declutter with Artifcts

Decluttering is a bit of an art, isn’t it? While one person may find it completely normal to retain 100s of back issues of magazines and spontaneously start new collections or justify pretty oddball purchases, you may look at all that ‘stuff’ and question, "Why?" But maybe you in turn struggle with sentimental gifts from close family and friends.

Finding the process that works for you can be daunting. Should you set a 15-minute timer and tackle the low hanging fruit? Do you want to keep what gives you joy and take a hard look at the rest, room by room? We’ve written about practical minimalism, which has something to offer for everyone, and decluttering with dementia in focus. We've given you an earth-friendly guide and decluttering targets. So many options! 

But as you take inventory of your home or perhaps contemplate downsizing your home, sometimes the best solution is the one that can check off multiple boxes at once in your busy life.

How to Declutter, Smarter 

TIME magazine published a story this week that placed our wellbeing and mental health at the epicenter of how to declutter. Their seven approaches were informed by mental health and home decluttering experts. One of the tools recommended was Artifcts. Here’s the excerpt:

Another app, Artifcts, helps preserve memories through a combination of images, audio, video, and text. If your grandmother has a lot of vintage jewelry, you could take a picture of each ring or necklace and record her telling a story about its significance. “Now you’ve got her words, her voice, her story, and it’s forever,” he says—yet the objects cluttering up the closet can go.

Paxton also uses Artifcts to digitize his seven kids’ artwork. Every Friday before dinner, he spends five minutes taking a photo of their latest creation and then records them talking about their work. Each kid chooses one piece of art to keep per year, and the rest live on in digital form.

If you are using Artifcts to support insurance claims, populate (at last!) that memorandum of tangible assets in your will, or document your collections, you may be a bit surprised to learn that others use Artifcts to document that which they are giving away or selling. 

Setting aside hoarding disorders and those with infinite resources for housing and storage, the key is this: We cannot keep it all. We must make tradeoffs for space, safety, and sanity, and sometimes that means letting go of items we wish we could keep, whether they are our own or we’ve inherited them. Artifcts is so much more than an inventory app, because here the memories and stories along with the curated items you value most are captured and preserved together, making it easier to let go. 

Our founders' favorite strategy for decluttering smarter with Artifcts is quite simple: Start with the obvious, what’s there in front of you. Kid art cluttering the counters? Old photos on the fridge? Piles of holiday letters and cards sitting on your desk? Simply snap a photo, add a short story, save, and you’re done! You can now recycle those items guilt free and reclaim your counters, desks, and exterior fridge space. That makes Artifcts a powerful decluttering app, sort of a "whistle while you work" phenomenon.

And, by the way, their families know this is a favorite strategy, so they’ve learned not to leave things out. Yet another way Artifcts can help with the clutter!  

TIME Magazine: 7 Low-Stress Ways to Start Decluttering 

We were so moved by the piece from TIME that we are bringing you this special ARTIcles by Artifcts to recommend you take a moment to read it and reflect on the options they have surfaced and see if any of them are the right one to help you in this moment in life and time.

Illustration of objects you might declutter in a home on a yellow background

 
 

Happy Saturday, and happy Artifcting!

_________________

Hello decluttering, organizing, or downsizing professionals! 

Check out Artifcts for Professionals and stay tuned for an announcement about our FREE upcoming 4-part training series this spring. In the interim, you might enjoy these sorting-, decluttering-, and organizing-themed webinars: 

Heather Nickerson, CEO of Artifcts, Chat with MaxSold: Get in on the auction 

Evenings with Artifcts: Practical Minimalism with Matt Paxton and Zoë Kim (VIDEO)

Getting Organized Ahead of the Holidays

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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10 Ways Genealogists are Using Artifcts That May Help You, Too

Reading time: 4 minutes 

No one knows how to use any product better than the power users among us. One of our power user groups at Artifcts is genealogists.

We've found genealogists as a whole to be tech savvy, detail oriented, creative, outside the box thinkers, and progressive leaning in the evolution of their methods. Curious what draws them to Artifcts and how they use it, surprising even the people who built Artifcts? Let’s go! 

10 Things Genealogists Have Taught Us About Artifcts 

If you are not a genealogist, you may think, “Don’t genealogists stick to family trees and research archives?” To some degree that was our expectation as we began building Artifcts. But the love of the details and the joy of bringing others in on their discoveries has meant Artifcts is solving a problem that genealogists couldn't quite put their collective fingers on until we came along. We suspect their tricks of the trade at Artifcts will help all of us non-genealogists in our quests, too! 

1. Tags are clearly limitless.

Folders are like corsets. Free yourself with tags! Create as many custom tags as you like on each of your Artifcts to later click on or search by (simply start your search term with #) by family member, location, document type and more.   

Fun fact: Genealogists were the first Arti Members we know of to add more than 10 tags to a single Artifct. 

2. The Artifcts timeline is a beautifully simple design and powerful resource.

Unlike traditional genealogy timelines, your Artifcts timeline is not weighed down by black and white details and restrictions on managing. With a click and drag you can reorder or choose to add more detail to your Artifcts. Creating a timeline for each family member? You can do that automatically by simply tagging each Artifct with the applicable family member and then sorting your timeline view by that tag, e.g. #DanielD or more specifically #DanielDb1938.  

BONUS! You can add public or private “time period notes” to your timeline to keep track of gaps you want to address or validate in your research and then Artifct. 

3. The stories and facts you need are available in fewer clicks

You can inter-link individual Artifcts you create using the familiar @ feature you likely know from social media, email, or even leaving comments in a Word document. Just build the people and Artifcts into your Artifcted "story” with by typing @ and making your selection. Once saved, you and others who can access the Artifct will be able to instantly segway to a related person or Artifct. No one you share your Artifct with will have to guess how all the dots connect. You will connect them as you create your Artifcts!  

Only because a genealogist asked did we ever try to write a “life story” in an Artifct. It’s easy to do when you have all your other Artifcts to help tell the story! Check it out in this ARTIcles story >

 
 
Here’s another sweet and silly example using the @ feature that we love from a summer vacation. Click the image to view the Artifct.

 

4. Brand/Artist is a perfect “free form” field.

A free form field, oh boy! Try using the Brand/Artist field to record Grandpa’s name and his link in the family tree for easy reference by anyone who you give access to view your Artifct. But remember, depending on where you build your family tree, you may need to grant them access there, too.

BONUS! Next time you fill in this field, you can select Grandpa again from the dropdown menu without having to retrieve the link. 

5. Location doesn’t have to be a physical place.

You can insert a link to the folder, share drive, or part of a family tree in whatever software you use to look for “more information” related to an Artifct if you need to dive deeper or reevaluate in the future. Remember, even if you privately share an Artifct with someone, no one else can see this field. If you are instead interested in including a video snippet in your private Artifct but want family you share it with to have access to the full hour long video, you could link to it from the Artifct "Description."

6. Artifcts sharing lists and circles bypass the usual pain of sharing.

Never again will you have to text, email, or airdrop a photo or audio or video snippet to a family member. With a free Artifcts account, anyone you specifically grant “view” access will have the option automatically to download any of the great photos, videos, and more you include in the Artifct in their original formats. No tiny, pixelated photos or videos (unless of course that's what you started with).

7. “Documentation” is for more than receipts and appraisals.

Documentation in each Artifct you create accommodates letter collections, chapters of family books, PDF scans of family recipe books, and more. It’s not just for receipts, appraisals, and the like. And thanks to feedback from genealogists, when you click and share an Artifct, you can choose if you’d like to also share the attached documents. By default, no documentation is ever shared.

8. Colors matter, so use them!

The introduction of options to change your font color and highlight your text in various shades as you write the description/story for an Artifct is also thanks to genealogists. Why? Because in the world of genealogy, colors have very specific meanings and help keep branches of the family tree straight. Others may use them for fun, but genealogists reminded us of the value of color. 

9. Ditto: Image captions matter.

While we introduced the option to add captions to photos thinking it would tie each more easily to the stories and people written about in the Artifct, genealogists instead started using them to reinforce information in the photos in a citation format. “Bravo,” we say.

Artifcted diploma by @tmacentee

 
 
We love the detail genealogist @tmacentee uses to record important events and accomplishments. Click the image to view the Artifct.

10. Stories can last for generations with Artifcts.

Start with the mundane black and white details, add in the family lore and research-in-progress as the fuel, and you can capture the interest of your most stubborn friends and family. Okay, maybe we knew this going into the creation of Artifcts, but if research-oriented genealogists are willing to adapt their tried-and-true methods to pick up Artifcting to ensure the STORIES of the heirlooms, trees, photos and more live on, then surely the rest of us mere mortals should do the same.  

It can be a bridge too far for many people to enter the world of sophisticated and complex genealogy software. Artifcts is a powerful tool, with a friendly, warm, and easy to use experience layered on top to welcome all. 

How do you use Artifcts? We’d love to hear all of your tips, hacks, and best practices. Please join us on Instagram or Facebook or write to use at Editor@Artifcts.com.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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