Treasured Memories: Organizing, Preserving and Creating Tributes with Photos and Videos

by Amy L. Silva Rigtrup

Left to Right: Great Aunt Hilda Chadinha (late), her daughter Paula Chadinha Tucker, Uncle Martin A. Silva, my Father Paul F. Silva, Aunt Ana M. Larrivee (late), Great "Vavo" Mary Gaspar (late); all hanging out on the porch of the family's old Swansea house, no longer in existence.

A picture is worth a thousand words. It tells a story, captures a moment in time. The actual memory may pass with the witnesses, but the pictures live on forever - if we take good care of them.

This week's episode of The Silva Lining was all about how to do just that. With my guests, Silva-Faria Funeral Homes' employees; Ines Bates, our Office Manager and Christopher Graham, Wake Attendant and Professional Organizer, we had a thorough discussion about organizing, preserving, archiving, repurposing and making tributes with photos, videos, audio cassettes and more.

The podcast is definitely worth a listen, as we had some wonderful callers as well - one even shared an interesting addition to his family's photo album!

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast, dated 1/21/16

Chris gave some great tips on the all important "where to start" notion, upon finding boxes or piles of photos to go through:

Step One - Categorize - You want to get the photos into some kind of order and the best way to do that is to sort them into categories. These are some good categories he mentioned:

  • Size
  • Chronological Order
  • Event
  • Junk (badly focused, nobody in photo, etc.)
  • Refer to Family Member (for people you don't recognize, but someone might)

Step Two - Decide to Scan or Organize in Albums:

  • Scanning - Gives you the most options, protection and quality in the long term. The digital image can be restored, shared, used in family histories, tributes, easily printed and backed up in multiple ways. The originals can then be safely stored, archived or given to family/friends as very meaningful gifts. The scanner we love to use is called Doxie.
  • Albums - These days, photo albums are made better and smarter. There are quality albums at affordable prices specifically made to last and protect your photos. Just make sure the album is acid and ligmin free. Found this album on Amazon that allows you to record audio for each page to attach memories/stories. I think this idea is brilliant!!

Sometimes, you might come across old photos with historical value, capturing your town/city, landscapes, classic cars, landmarks, events, etc. You can always reach out to your local library or historical society - they might have an archival program in place and really appreciate adding them to their collection.

Newspaper articles are very important too and as Chris said on the show, most people immediately want to laminate them. While laminating is a good idea in terms of preservation, Chris recommends scanning the article BEFORE laminating because once and article is laminated, the quality of the scan will be lessened.

We also discussed videos. It is common knowledge that our generation takes TONS of video, but even back in the 60's and beyond, a lot of families filmed most popularly with Super 8. Finding these videos and converting them to be able to view them is a treasure in and of itself. My grandparents took their five children on a summer adventure driving around the country in an RV and filmed quite a lot of the trip on Super 8. My aunt had the film converted to DVD a few years ago and gave copies to each family member. It was amazing watching the footage and will certainly be treasured by us all for generations to come.

Film of all formats (8mm, Super 8, 16mm) and video tapes (VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, Hi8, Digital 8 and Mini-DV) can be converted to digital form. The question is if you want to do the work yourself or outsource it. VHS to DVD converter/recorder machines are pretty affordable, still easy to find and probably your best option for doing the transfers yourself.

As for outsourcing, these sites are the best I found - and they take care of video, film, photos, slides, restoration - all at once. You send in everything you'd like transferred into digital form, they send you back all of the originals plus DVD's of the digital files. With both and you also get to review the scans and actually choose the scans you'd like to keep (and pay for!). For the video-editing-savvy, I'd recommend for their "Video Tape Alchemy" feature. Not only do they convert your film/video into digital form, but you also gain access to the editing process as well.

**Also mentioned audio!! will convert cassettes (my beloved mixtapes), vinyl, MicroCassette and more!

When it comes time for the funeral, pictures, video, scrapbooks, yearbooks and memorabilia really add tremendous meaning to the services. For the people that knew the person well, these things provide a ride down memory lane and usually lead to memories and stories that will be shared with family and friends. For those that didn't know the person that well, they will learn more about them and gain understanding, perspective and a deeper relationship with their bereaved friends/acquaintances that they are supporting.

When families have most of their photos and videos in digital form, creating a video tribute to play at the wake is substantially easier. Tributes are almost always made by either the family or the funeral home. Each funeral home is different in what they create, equipment they own (i.e. televisions, DVD players, digital frames) and this will have an impact on what type of format is allowed, so it is best to reach out to your funeral director to see what they use, allow and offer.

The major general difference I can talk about that rings true with funeral homes on the business end is the benefits and limitations of tributes made by us. When a funeral home makes a tribute for the family, we have to use music and stock graphics that we have legal licensed permissions to use. The only original content that is protected are the images provided to us by the family. This is why we use platform to create tributes that supply us with music and graphics that we can use.

At Silva-Faria Funeral Homes, we couldn't be happier with the platform we are using, called Tukios. There is so much customization, HD quality and due to the nature of our business - speed and efficiency in the process. I've been able to seamlessly include family members near and far in the photo collection process with a single upload link, which has meant so much to the families I've served. Best of all, the Tukios platform utilizes photos AND video! The finished tribute then is integrated directly onto our obituary page, where it will stay, along with the guest book, for anyone to view. 

Since we didn't have this platform available when my Aunt Ana died, I've remade her tribute and invite you to view it HERE. Hers was a personality that could never be captured or categorized, only treasured and embraced. She was vivacious, free, compassionate, wild, loving, contagiously fun and generous. I know that wherever she is, she's preparing quite the party for all of us.


The Silva Lining is thankful for our wonderful sponsor:

St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union - We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at