Look How Crowdsourcing and Generous People Are Helping to Save Irreplaceable Water-Damaged Photos

by Curtis Bisel
updated: February 9, 2024
Curtis Bisel
February 9, 2024

I just came across this very positive and endearing article about a woman by the name of Rebecca Manson who volunteered for six months, working to save other peoples’ flood-damaged photos.

At first, I thought it was going to be a completely negative story. Valerie Zehl starts out her article on Pressconnects.com telling us about a horrible situation that Ann Olsen of Endwell, NY found herself in last September.

Valerie explains that, “Ann’s Castle Gardens home was inundated. Hundreds — including one-of-a-kind shots of her late mother and brother — were underwater. When she could get to them days later she tried to make ‘photo sandwiches’ with absorbent material between the wet pictures, but could do only a few of them.”

At that moment while I was reading this, I felt so bad for Anne. I really can’t imagine what that must feel like to look down at these “smelly, flood-muddied crates” and know that what’s left inside used to be all of your priceless photographs.

And then my next thought continued to be honest but was a more selfish one. I counted my own blessings with my family’s photo collection and the excellent condition it’s still in. I am so thankful all of my photos — at least so far – has survived disasters like this.

Olsen couldn’t bear to throw her damaged photos to the curb so she went to the internet looking for an answer. She found a video about Rebecca Manson, a photo-retoucher who put her career on hold and donated 6 months of her life to save water-damaged photographs of tsunami victims in Japan.

Via Facebook, Olsen hooked up with Manson, and what started out to be just an exchange of “written instructions about her process for dealing with flooded photos,” turned out to be something far better.

Manson, who works professionally with advertising agencies, magazines such as GQ and high-end store catalogs, offered to come to a nearby location of Olsen’s and hold a free workshop on “cleaning damaged photos” for anyone who wants to attend. The article reads that she only asked that Olsen helps to coordinate this late April event!

Crowd-Sourcing Help from the Internet

What I truly found amazing in this article was not just how amazing Rebecca Manson is for all that she has so graciously done for others and their photo collections. I was also blown away with how she has leveraged the power of the internet and the generosity of others to exponentially help out.

This is how Rebecca Manson worked her magic for the tsunami victims in Japan:

Rebecca Manson with photos drying
Rebecca Manson works to dry photos damaged by the tsunami in Japan.
Thousands photos drying after Japan's tsunami
With the help of dozens of helpers, they cleaned hundreds of thousands of photographs.

Manson apparently scanned the ones that needed the most restoration help and “sent them through the Internet to a network of 450 restorers in 25 countries.”

In the beginning, she sent the request for help to 25 to 30 of her friends. About 15 to 20 of them replied back and said, “Yes that’s a great idea!” and wanted to help her out. Soon, that number turned to over 400 volunteers!

The above video says in addition to countries from India to Afghanistan, at least one person in every state of the United States agreed to help out.

Rebecca Manson scanning photos
Rebecca Manson scanning photos to send off to volunteers around the world for photo retouching.

Wow! Incredible! I just love the internet — and of course… good-hearted people!

This “crowd-sourcing” technique, similar to the likes used on Kiva.org and Kickstarter.com, can really do amazing things for people with real needs, wants and dreams.

If you would like to read the entire article, check out: “Neighbors: Expert’s advice may help save flood-damaged photos.”

For another link for the video above, check out Rebecca Manson’s website page that also has the ABC News source article “Tsunami Damaged Photos Repaired By Volunteers Around the World.”

Additionally, if you’re interested in attending a “cleaning damaged photos” workshop (like the one described above) contact Ann Olsen via e-mail at annsvoice-photos@yahoo.com or by calling (607) 768-9533.

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