One might find pieces of family and community history buried in boxes and attics throughout Chautauqua County. Stored in photo albums or on 8mm film or video tapes, some say these memories could be lost forever if they're not transferred to modern formats.
J Crosby, owner of PC Projects of Jamestown, hopes to prevent that from happening.
Operating under the tagline "We Digitize Memories," Crosby and his company transfer film, video, photos and slides to digital formats.
Films, video, photos and slides can all be transferred to digital formats. Footage from Salamanca High School football games in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, have been transferred to DVDs by PC Projects in Jamestown.
P-J photos by Scott Shelters
"Get them digitized now before they break or wear out," Crosby said. "By digitizing them, that automatically brings them up to today's standards and keeps them around. Technology continues evolving, but the first step is getting them into a digital format."
THE DIGITIZATION PROCESS
Area residents bring Crosby photo-filled boxes and albums, slides, films, and video tapes of all formats that they want to preserve. Many people don't have the time, expertise or equipment necessary to digitize their movies and pictures. Some don't have computers or scanners needed to digitize photos and slides, and most don't possess the technology needed to digitize films or videos, according to Crosby.
"It takes special equipment to transfer their own home movies," he said. "A lot of people have tried to video tape their old movies playing on a screen or a wall, but the results aren't good."
Through the use of video, film and photo converters, film-projection equipment, hard drives, and more, PC Projects pulls off the digital transfer. By doing so, footage from birthday parties, Christmas mornings and other family events is preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
"It gives them a chance to see ancestors or kids growing up," Crosby said. "My joy is that I'm enabling families to re-live these things."
Crosby has digitized films dating back to the 1930s. In recent times, more people have asked him to transfer their VHS home video footage onto DVDs.
"People are doing that now because they don't have a working VCR anymore," Crosby said. "Those were so popular in the (1980s) and (1990s), but people don't really use those anymore. They've got all of these videos of their kids growing up, and they can't even watch them anymore. It's fun to let people see that stuff again."
Many of Crosby's clients ask to have their photos and home movies digitized onto DVDs. Others want digital files that they can edit.
"Most people just want to be able to look at them again," Crosby said. "If they're computer-savvy and have the right software - say they want to have prints made - they need to have the JPEG files. The process varies based on the type of project, and the end product varies based on the user."
SHOULD I HANG ON TO THE ORIGINALS?
After having their photos and movies digitized, some may wish to discard their photo albums, films or video cassettes. Depending on how important the photos and footage are to an individual or his or her family, that might not be the best idea. According to Joni Blackman, director of the Fenton History Center, when it comes to items of importance, backing them up is the key.
"We keep everything," she said. "That's the basic theory for historical purposes. We make copies of them to use when we need to handle them, look at them, manage them. You touch your master copies once to get them copied, and then you put them away for good, or almost for good, most of the time."
Planning out which photos go on which discs before starting the digitization process can make the process more efficient. Labeling the discs and telling loved ones where they are and what's on them is also crucial, according to Blackman.
"You also have to tell somebody about it, so it isn't just you with the knowledge," she said. "All of the sudden, you're gone and they're looking at these discs and discs and discs of photos and thinking, 'I don't know what any of this is.'"
Another question is how long today's technology will last. Those who rely solely on digital technology may not have any of their memories or treasured photos years from now.
"Many people walk around with hundreds of photos on their cameras," Blackman said. "They never download them. They never do anything with them but pop them in the camera and show them that way. That's their picture frame. They have to think about how they want to save those. There's questions about whether the formats you're saving them in are even going to last long enough. In 50 years, are they going to be able to put that CD in their machine and play it? I don't know."
OF INTEREST TO THE GREATER COMMUNITY
Approximately 90 percent of the photos and videos Crosby works with are of interest to specific families or individuals. Occasionally, he's asked to undertake something of interest to the greater community.
Randy Anderson, Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame president, values digitized footage and has called upon PC Projects for assistance on multiple occasions. The Hall of Fame has had Crosby digitize photos and footage from video cassettes and 8mm home movies.
"A lot of people donate home movies to the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame," Anderson said. "We can't deal with all of these 8mm home movies. By having them on DVDs, now we've got something that everybody can use and enjoy."
The Hall of Fame obtained photos of Stateline Speedway from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. After having the footage digitized, the Hall of Fame was able to use the photos when making a movie about the speedway.
"Whether we had made that film or not, we would've wanted this material," Anderson said. "This is preserving the sports history of our county. If all of us don't make the effort to preserve what's out there, that stuff is going to be lost forever."
At other times, Crosby just stumbles across historic footage that's mixed in with other reels of film. PC Projects recently digitized video footage of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz attending the premiere of their feature movie, "Forever Darling," at Jamestown's Palace Theater in February 1956.
"It could've easily gone by me and been gone forever," Crosby said. "Fortunately, I just happened to see it and got permission from the owner to share it."
Crosby has also digitized films of the Kinzua Dam's construction, a tornado in downtown Jamestown in the 1940s and Robert F. Kennedy's visit to Jamestown in 1964. Some of the digitized videos can be viewed on the PC Projects website, wedigitizememories.com.
"That's pretty cool stuff," Crosby said. "People have these things sitting in their shoe boxes in their closets on their home videos, and they don't even know they have them sometimes. It's those nuggets that excite me because it's part of the local history, and I think people are interested in that. That's what I'm hoping to get more of."