Old Photos Have Important Stories to Tell About Our History

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Old photos have stories to tell — and often, they’re important ones. This past year, Darcy Eveleigh, a photo editor for The New York Times, journeyed into the publication’s photo archives. On her list of people to search for was Martin Luther King Jr., as part of a Black History Month Project. Among her finds was a portrait of King that had been used over and over throughout the years. She then discovered that the portrait was, in fact, not a portrait, but actually a crop-out of a television roundtable discussion King had been a part of.

This photo and others became part of Unpublished Black History — a way for The New York Times to tell stories that hadn’t come to light before through the power of old, previously unpublished photographs. Another unpublished image was of Lena Horne; the caption on the unpublished photo was a forgotten story in itself, detailing how famous singer Harry Belafonte had trouble finding an apartment.

“He, like Ms. Horne, had been turned away by brokers and landlords who refused to rent to African-Americans. Outraged, he bought the entire building and invited his friends to join him there. Ms. Horne got the penthouse,” read the photo. Considering the size of the archive (millions of print photos, and millions of negatives), this archive project will be ongoing, with many more stories waiting to unfold.

Your personal history matters, and every photograph you save is a story for you and for future generations to remember. While over 3.5 trillion photographs have been taken since the camera was invented, many if not most of these photos — and their stories — are now lost to time. Luckily, photo restoring services can help save any photos you have. Photo restoring services can correct fading, dust damage and more.

Over 52% of parents say they haven’t yet done anything to preserve the pictures they have of their children. How can you make sure your photo stories are not forgotten? One important step is keeping track of the stories accompanying each photo. Don’t assume that, 10 years later, you’ll remember that this photo was taken at the 2010 family reunion. Even just jotting down a few notes on the back of each photo can help jog your memory later.

Another important step is investing in picture scanning services. Per photo, these services are often quite affordable — and they can ensure that your photos live on, even if you happen to lose the physical copy you have. Slide scanning services also exist, for those whose photos are currently in slides.

About 25% of Americans say that family photos are their most important documents. Thanks to photo restoring services and digitized photo services, your photos can stay fresh and alive alongside your memories for many years to come.