Genealogts want to help Keep Your Memories Alive

Sean C. Morgan

A new program of the Sweet Home Genealogical Society gives Sweet Home community members the opportunity to digitize and preserve old photography.

“We’re offering it to the community at a very low cost,” said Teresa Riper, society president. The “Keep Your Memories Alive” project charges a quarter per image. “We’re able to keep the cost low because of the Community Foundation.”

A $1,625 grant from the Sweet Home Community Foundation in March enabled the volunteer nonprofit organization to purchase equipment to scan and store negatives, including glass negatives.

“We, as an organization, cannot thank them enough,” Riper said.

The Genealogical Society has large numbers of analog items in its collection, stored at the Sweet Home Genealogical Library, 1223 Kalmia St., including bound copies of The New Era from 1947 to present, photos, negatives and documents.

“Negatives just get shoved back,” said Riper when receiving the grant funds. “We’ve inherited tons and tons of pictures.”

Among those photos is a collection of images from Eggen Studios, a Lebanon photo studio, which is already indexed on paper, and includes portrait photography going back to at least 1947.

Now the society will be able to digitize them, keep them on file and index them so they and other materials can easily be searched.

Society members are still finding things that have been forgotten, Riper said. They come into the library, get set aside and then forgotten. Digitizing them will allow them to be referenced too.

“We’d like to have every document easy to find,” she said. When people are researching their family history, they may find photos, making the experience more exciting and bringing the past to life.

If people have old negatives and photos, the society loves the donations, especially for Sweet Home-based families, Riper said.

Beyond the benefits to researchers, the project will benefit community members who just want to preserve their photos electronically.

“As soon as it gets started, I think we’ll be busy,” said Angela Thoma, a member and volunteer with the Genealogical Society. “A lot of people have talked about wanting to put pictures on a disc.”

Volunteers will not do photo restoration, Riper said. They’ll scan the photos and do minor color correction and reduction of dust and scratches.

Right now, four members are doing the scans, Riper said. The society will provide images on discs or flash drives, charging for additional copies.

The process will be by appointment, Riper said. People are welcome to come in and sit with staff while they scan photos.

Thoma is one of the members who will do the scanning.

“Angela has done the restoration before, so she stepped into being one of the people that scans,” Riper said.

Digitizing people’s photos is just one way the Genealogical Society assists the community and others outside across the country. The society often helps people researching information about their families, charging small fees to look up information.

People often send emails or call looking for an old obituary, Riper said. Society volunteers look the information up and send it off to the caller, while the caller sends a check for $5, for example.

They’re helping one man with a major project right now, Thoma said. He’s a sort of guinea pig for the Genealogical Society at this point.

He called and asked the members to research his family back to when it came to the United States, Riper said. “I didn’t know what to say to charge for it.”

He asked her to do it and said he would send a donation she felt was appropriate, Riper said. “We’ve never had this large a request.”

He’s at a roadblock with a great-great-grandfather, Thoma said. “Discussing it among us, we were able to narrow it down.”

It looks like that great-great-grandfather was a twin, and the Genealogical Society has been following those twins, Thoma said.

The “Keep Your Memories Alive” project will help even under these circumstances, Riper said, increasing the chance that volunteers will be able to help people who come into the library for help.

Coming up, the Genealogical Society will begin hosting history night, a program funded by the Linn County Cultural Coalition for $1,200.

The program will feature Great Courses video lectures by history professors, Riper said. The schedule isn’t set yet. The program will have no charge.

Starting Oct. 16, the Genealogical Society will begin genealogy classes. Each session includes two 30-minute videos with sessions at noon and 6 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month. The classes will have no charge.

In both cases, donations are accepted.

The Genealogical Society is now offering gift certificates that can be used to pay membership dues, books, scanning and other services.

The Genealogical Society operates based on membership dues, donations, grants and interest on a donation from the Jerry Mealy estate, which also paid for the construction of the Genealogical Society Library opened in 1999. According to its 2016 Form 990, a form the IRS requires nonprofits to file annually, the Genealogical Society had revenues of $17,000 and expenses of $18,000 in 2016. Including its library, it has net assets of $192,000.

For more information, call Riper at (541) 401-1361, keep an eye on The New Era “Around Town” page or keep up via the Genealogical Society’s Facebook page for more information.