What Would You Take?

by | Last updated Apr 21, 2017 | Backup Digitals, Storing Originals | 5 comments

People magazine cover — November 19, 2012

People — November 19, 2012

This is a guest post by Trevor Rumsey

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the November 19th, 2012 issue of People magazine. It talked about some of the stories of rescues and survival around the recent superstorm Sandy that hit the Eastern seaboard of the United States.

One article entitled “Found in the Wreckage” (pages 58-59) caught my attention. The article spotlighted eight different families whose homes were destroyed by the storm.

It showed each of them holding the possession they grabbed as they frantically abandoned their home to escape the storm and save their lives.

As I was reading the article I started to put myself in their place and to think about what would I take if I only had enough space and time to grab one or two things?

As I thought on this it didn’t take long to come up with the answer.

I would take as many family pictures as I possibly could.

I imagined what it was like for these people with the flood water coming in through the house and outside it is raining. Pictures that were taken outside probably got wet and damaged.

And as it turned out, four out of these eight families chose their family photographs as the item they grabbed.


Although I am only 38, I have a lot of memories collected in the way of family photos. I am still in the process of raising five children.

In my mind, the family photos are what I call the equity of my life. They hold the memories of bringing my children home from the hospital, seeing their first steps and recalling their early birthday parties. As I get older, these memories are what I cherish most.

Just last night we pulled out the old pictures and my kids had a great time seeing themselves when they were babies.

children looking at family photo albums on couch

children looking at family photo albums on couch

children looking at family photo albums on couch

At times it may seem like a daunting task to organize, back up, and store our old photos. We may even have the attitude of, “the likelihood of something happening to my photo collection is so slim.”

I have a tendency to think like this as well, however I have already had two house disasters in my lifetime.


The first one came in 1983 when I was only eight years old. Our house was right on the ocean in Southern California. There was a massive storm that heaved waves past their normal range and one of these waves crashed through our house filling the entire first floor with sea water.

two boys in front of beach house damaged by ocean wave

That's me holding the cookie up in the air out in front of our house in 1983. You can see the 2 x 4's holding up the front of the house so it doesn't fall forward. The water was 8 feet deep inside. There was so much force from the wave that it came through the house and blew the garage door off across the street!


Then the second instance happened just three years ago when a pan with cooking oil was accidentally turned on and ignited a kitchen fire!

Luckily my family was able to put it out before more than the kitchen was ruined, because it was only minutes away from fully engulfing the entire house. We had to move out of our house for a few days while a restoration company came in and cleaned everything and repainted.

In both cases I was lucky that our photo collections were not damaged.


A few months ago I came across ScanYourEntireLife.com. It has been really good for me to learn from Curtis a systematized way to scan and organize my old photos. He has given me the confidence that I can complete this project.


boy standing next to a stack of photo albums that need to be digitally scanned

You can see I have just a little bit of work ahead of me!

My ultimate goal is to have all of my photos digitally archived and backed up in a few different locations so that if (when) the next fire, storm, flood, earthquake, theft (you name it) happens I will know what I will take.

I will grab my external hard drive and head for the door, knowing that I have all of my physical memories saved.

Related Posts

Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

If this was your entire photo collection sitting in this trash can in the photo above, would this make you actually feel relief … or utter panic?

What if I added to this scenario. What if to the best of your knowledge, all of your photos sitting in the trash were already scanned and safely backed up on a couple of your hard drives.

Do you now feel relieved … or still utterly panicked?

From everyone I have talked to about this scenario, it seems safe for me to say that I believe the world is in somewhat of a divide whether it’s actually okay to throw away your prints and slides once they have been scanned and digitally preserved.

And for some, hopefully not too many, I am sure they would say it’s okay to throw away many if not most photos before they were scanned and preserved.

Yes. You heard me.

Best Photo Slide Box to Safely Archive Your Slides — Logan Slide File Review (Video)

Best Photo Slide Box to Safely Archive Your Slides — Logan Slide File Review (Video)

If you’re looking for something to store all of your 35-millimeter slides in, you should consider checking out the slide file made by a company called Logan.

It’s a very nice all-metal box with a hinged lid, two metal clasps to keep it shut and a little handle to carry it by.

I bought three of these because I actually couldn’t find what I thought I was looking for, which were these small, little cardboard boxes that hold maybe 70 or so slides that my dad had been using for many, many years to keep his entire slide collection in.

The Logan Slide File is about US$29.95 a piece. When I bought mine they were $26.95 so they’re not cheap. But almost anything slide-related seems to carry a premium right now in the digital era. But from every slide container I found, this seemed to be the best.

I was very happy to read that this slide file box has been made for about 40 years now and for those who like buying US products, you will be happy to know that they’re all made here in the United States in the City of Bartlett, Illinois.

Itoya Art Profolio Marker — Photo Safe Archival Pen Review

Itoya Art Profolio Marker — Photo Safe Archival Pen Review

When I first started scanning my photo collection, I starting out writing on the back of my prints with a fairly dull pencil. However, I pushed down extremely lightly though as to not etch through to the other side!

But, you know, I just really hate using pencils now.

I’m an adult now. I already had my fair share of NFL pencil sets in the 1980’s. I feel like I have moved past pencils in my life.

What I really wanted was a decent ink pen that I could feel safe using on photos and slides. And if I had to make a list of the qualities I was looking for in particular, it would look something like this:

My Dream Photo Pen Criteria:

Photo safe, Non-toxic, Permanent ink, Fade resistant, Dries quickly, Will not smear once dry, and Won’t bleed through.

Did this one pass the test?

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vanessa corey engelhardt
vanessa corey engelhardt

After receiving our mandatory evacuation notice from Hurricane Irma, I spend several agonizing hours trying to save family photos and store others hoping they would not be damaged. I will never do this again; I more than dedicated to putting all my family photos on external hard drive. Does anyone have a recommendation for an excellent and fast document scanner?

Curtis Bisel
Coins: 1846
Curtis Bisel

Hi Venessa. I’ve been worried, waiting for the comments to start coming in, after the U.S. just experienced major hurricanes. I certainly hope more people report they were able to save their photos than those who were unsuccessful.

If you are looking for speed, that also does documents, I would start looking at Epson’s latest scanner called the Epson FastFoto FF-640 High-Speed Photo Scanning System with Auto Photo Feeder. You get speed and the option to still scan photos as high as 600 dpi.

Vanessa, I certainly hope this means even though you went through some agonizing hours, you were able to preserve at least the majority of your collection.


This Article makes me think! I am getting ready to invest in a digital scanner and begin this process as well.

Curtis Bisel
Coins: 1846
Curtis Bisel

That’s fantastic to hear! I love it that Trevor’s post was enough to inspire you.

Even if you already had the idea, maybe his story has made you want to start the project even sooner or maybe work harder to complete it sooner. Either way, I wish you the best!

And know, if it seems too difficult at any moment, just think — “baby steps”. Just do a little bit at a time, a little bit every day for example. You CAN do it! smile

Art Taylor
Coins: 45
Art Taylor

Very nice post, Trevor. Your photo of the stack of albums beside your son really shows the task you face. At least your photos are in some sort of order, unlike many people’s whose photos are in umpteen cardboard or plastic boxes, totally unsorted and frequently unidentified as to the who, when, where, why, of what they show.

I’ve been following Curtis’s blog for almost a year now and he certainly makes convincing arguments in favor of scanning and preserving your family photos and other documents, like certificates, legal documents and deeds, and more.

I’m glad to learn that your photos have survived two near disasters and hope that they and you are spared ‘strike 3’. Once you’ve finished digitizing them all on multiple media, they’ll have a better chance of surviving any and all future disasters.