I have ordered the scanner, an Epson Perfection V750-M Pro, $731.99 plus shipping. It should be here tomorrow, so I can start on the Polaroids immediately. They are the photos in most imminent danger of fading beyond legibility, but there are a lot of color prints that are also fading. The much older photos, by comparison, seem to be extremely stable, so I don't have the same sense of urgency about them.
I am saddened that one print was so faded, with only a faint trace of an image remaining along one edge, that there was no realistic chance of restoring anything from it. I know some restorers can do great things, but there was just no information left on 90% of the print. It was a photograph of my stepfather Wences Witkowski as a child, with his sister, at some kind of fair. I know this only because I remember seeing it twenty years ago, and it was very faded even then. Seeing what became of this photo has really convinced me that I need to get the scanning going ASAP.
I found it somewhat strange, but out of all these thousands of photos, I did not find a single negative. I know most of the old portraits probably did not come with negatives, but I think most of the prints from the seventies and eighties probably came with negatives. Did my mother and grandmother just throw these out? I don't know. I've come to think of the negatives as the first-generation artifact and prints as disposable, but they probably did not think about them the same way. It is also possible that there are negatives I have not found yet.
Anyway, the main reason I settled on the V750-M Pro is that in-depth reviewed rated its ability to capture images from transparencies (slides and film) as nearly indistinguishable from a dedicated slide/film scanner. It is a slight upgrade from the Perfection V700, but the hardware differences are not all that compelling; however, it comes with a better software bundle, and several reviews mentioned that the software upgrade was worth the price difference.
To make room for the scanner and the G5 iMac, I am giving away my big IBM P202 monitor. It is a nice 21-inch monitor, built like a tank. But it is huge and heavy, using up most of my desk space, and it is getting a bit dim with age. So off it goes. This means I will not have a monitor to plug into my PC or G4 iMac, but those can wait until we do some computer shuffling.
Our HP Businesss Inkjet is also going out the door. It is a pretty nice printer, with a duplexing feature. However, it prints only good, not great, color photos, and the ink cartridges are very expensive per cartridge when compared to the higher-end Epson printers. It is going to make way for a planned higher-end inkjet printer specifically for photos.
I also ordered the following books:
"Color Management in Digital Photography: Ten Easy Steps to True Colors in Photoshop" by Brad Hinkel
"Apple Pro Training Series: Aperture 1.5 (Apple Pro Training)" by Orlando Luna
"Digital Restoration From Start to Finish: How to repair old and damaged photographs" by Ctein
"Scanning Negatives and Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives" by Sascha Steinhoff
I also ordered some supplies for cleaning prints and transparancies from Light Impressions (lightimpressionsdirect.com). More on those later when they arrive and I have a chance to try them out.
Grace and I are talking over the possibility of finding one or more interns, preferably students in history or library science specializing in preservation, to work on this project.
The deliverables from a history student would be to read and organize all the paperwork and come up with a family tree and some documentation on all the persons represented, and also consult some resources outside the collection for verification.
The deliverables from a library science/preservation student would be a plan of attack and plan of workflow for the cleaning, scanning, digital archival storage, and physical archival storage. And then, of course, doing the job, where we provided all the necessary supplies.
If we found an art or graphic design student interested in digital restoration and printing, there could be an opportunity there, too.