Saturday, April 28, 2012

from the ashes....

Over the past few months, since my mom's house burned down just before Christmas, Laura and I have been recovering and restoring our family foties. They were in Duncan's office which was pretty well the epicentre of the fire. The Sir Charles Tupper settee was incinerated and it looked like all the albums were destroyed too but on closer inspection we found they were salvageable. So we salvaged them.

The black and white oldies, we're finding, are much easier to extract from the albums than the colour photos. The only problem with the oldies is there isn't a lot of explanation about who the people are. I showed a bunch to my mom a week ago and she had no clue who any of the people are ~ kind of discouraged. The next oldie album we started in on seemed to be another waste of time. But we forged on and were richly rewarded with this....

It's an original watercolour painted in 1883 by my ancestor HH St. George (my middle name is St. George). I still have to research exactly who HH is but the find has made me eager to dig deeper.

It's so exciting to find and see artwork that was created by an ancestor. My Grandfather and Great Aunt  (on my dad's side) were both artists but I didn't know I had artists on the other side of the fam until now. Makes me happy!

To round out the find, this was also in the album.... and to think we were going to toss the album without even looking through it first! No date on this one but the signature is also HH StG.

mini restoration

The other day a friend of mine, Cathy, posted this picture of her sister, her mum and herself on facebook

I thought I'd take a stab at this and see what I could do. Here is the result.... 

I cleaned up some stray spots, applied the sharpen filter and made some colour, level, brightness and contrast adjustments
Cathy was surprised and please. This is what she said about it:
"there's an interesting story about that roll of film. That roll of film was from the summer of '76. I found it in a drawer in dad's workshop in 1991 took it into Japan Camera to be developed the guy said they didn't even make film like that anymore he was able to develop it, but that's why the pix were so discoloured it was like finding a time capsule! it had pix from when we left Virginia all the way across the USA...such a find!"

starting the process

setting up to start the separation process. Plastic drop cloth to protect the table, gloves to protect our hands, respirator and masks to protect our lungs, scissors and x-acto knife.

separating the photos from the albums... Before the digital age photos were developed and processed in liquid so using water is the way to go to separate photos that are stuck together. Don't try and pull them apart by force. Soak them until they start to separate on their own. This batch of photos was pretty badly burned so we cut off the burnt part before setting the photos out to dry.

suited up for health safety

drying time

drying the photos like this tends to cause them to curl up. Alternate way to dry is to hang each photo so they drip dry. If the photos do curl press them under a heavy stack of books once they're dry


In December, a week before Christmas, these photos were burned in a fire but I was able to rescue the albums and get them ready for restoration. The room they were in was the epicentre of the fire but the photos weren't incinerated since they were so closely packed (thankfully!). They were, however, badly burned and smoke damaged. So I took the albums and popped them in my deep freeze until I could begin the process of recovery.
If you can't get to them right away, store your rescued photos in a freezer until you're ready to work with them. This will keep them from getting further ruined by mould and mildew. Freezing the photos also makes it easier to separate them from each other (or from plastic if they were kept in a plastic album).