(+) Preserving Old Documents Electronically

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Old documents often are fragile. Simply handling them can damage the documents or speed their deterioration; so, one must avoid frequent handling. This can be difficult in the case of family heirlooms since many people may want to see them. Equally challenging is the difficulty of sharing those old documents with people who cannot easily travel to the location where the documents and photographs are stored. Even if you could count on those people returning them, the thought of sending irreplaceable original documents in the mail would give a genealogist the willies!

Luckily, within the past decade technology advances have reduced many of these difficulties. It is now possible to reproduce and even improve the appearance of old documents and photographs. Multiple copies are easy to make, and electronic copies can be put on CD-ROM disks, on Web sites, in the cloud, and even in e-mail messages. Best of all, these tasks can be done at home, using modestly-priced hardware and software. In fact, making electronic improvements and photocopies often can be done for prices that rival or beat older methods.

This week I thought I would describe the process of preserving old documents and making them easily available to anyone who wishes to view them.

The Basics

The hardware required is relatively simple and inexpensive these days. In short, you need a computer and a scanner. If you want paper copies, you need a photo-quality printer for pictures or an average laser or inkjet printer for documents. Recording on CD-ROM assumes that you have a CD-ROM writer, while uploading to the Web means that you need an internet connection and (usually) a web browser. In short, you need a typical home computer.

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