Glimpses of the past are occupying his present
Old photos unexpectedly pop up everywhere — stashed in boxes in dark closets, slipped between pages of an old yearbook, pasted in long-lost family scrapbooks.
Once the excitement of finding them passes, the finder has to decide what to do with them.
Duane McCarty of Marion discovered boxes of photos from his grandmother and great-grandmother that his mother had tucked away. In an effort to preserve them he has been scanning and uploading old photos ranging from 1910 to 1980s onto social media to share with friends and family.
“This is how I can think to preserve them,” he said.
The boxes also contained old postcards and newspaper clippings. There were so many items that McCarty spent dozens of hours going through them.
“I still have more photos to go through but I had to take a break before my wife divorced me,” he joked.
McCarty was like a child on Christmas morning going through boxes of photos and said it put a sort of spell over him.
“I couldn’t wait to get to the next box and then the next box to find these old pictures,” he said.
The photos have been generating comments from people who remembered things in them.
“I’ve learned what Florence looked like back in the day and what Marion looked like,” he said. “Some photos contained relations I’ve never seen before like great-uncles and aunts, and great-great-grandparents.”
Some photos are of McCarty’s family, some of old vehicles, and others show events and things long gone from Florence, where McCarty grew up. Other photos were treasures, like several of McCarty’s dad and mom from when they were children.
“I forgot those pictures existed,” he said.
It’s a scenario familiar to Marion Historical Museum director Cynthia Blount — many of those old photos end up at the museum.
“It can be daunting to have all those photos,” she said.
Yearly the museum receives several donations of photos, which Blount and other museum staff scan to preserve and store so the photos do not become damaged.
“We keep some on display but keep everything archived so that way people can request copies if they’re doing research or looking for past family members,” she said. “The museum will gladly take any old photos, especially which show people doing things in town or buildings in town.”
Blount said she loves going through boxes of photos because she is always surprised by what she finds.
“Photos are wonderful because it preserves the history of the area and helps people see different things throughout the years,” she said.
A good example is photos of the town during floods.
“Many photos were destroyed by floods, so much of what we know the downtown to be were from photos of the actual floods because they survived,” Blount said.
The biggest problem the museum runs into is unnamed photos.
“The biggest piece of advice I can give to people with old or any photos is to write on the back any information they have about who is in the photo and when it was taken,” she said.
The museum has several hundred photos of people and places they can’t identify.
For those keeping old photos, like McCarty, she urges to store in a dry dark place.
“They also make boxes and items that help better preserve photos,” she said. “Also if you scan the photos, back them up in several places in case one fails.”