Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show
Host: Scott Fisher
Segment 1 Episode 75
Fisher: Hello, Genies and welcome to Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com, America’s Family History Show. Hi, I’m Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Before I go any further, welcome to our latest affiliate in the growing Extreme Genes radio network, WMXI News Radio 98.1 FM in Laurel-Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We are proud to be part of Tim Lee’s and Gene Tibbet’s great weekend lineup and if you are new to the show, here’s what we’re all about. Helping you to find your ancestors as well as their stories and having a ball along the way! We’ve got expert guests on every related topic you can imagine, as well as ordinary people finding extraordinary things in their journey to learn their past. This week we’ll be talking first to Dr. Timothy Tackett, professor emeritus at UC Irvine. Dr. Tackett made a remarkable find within his family’s stuff of a very unique record. Not just dealing with family, but an entire Native American tribe, noting events dating back to 1752. How did he find it? Where was it stored? And why did his family have it? How did he know what it was? What has he done with it? I mean, I’ve got a lot of questions for Dr. Tackett, coming up in about eight minutes. Then, later in the show, what people did in their lives can sometimes be overshadowed by how people’s lives actually ended. This is a story you won’t want to miss! It involves three families, a gathering and canned food. Even ninety one years later, it is a sobering tale.
Then Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority returns with an answer to a listener question, “Why are so many archives insisting you don’t wear white gloves when handling aged and fragile documents?” He’ll explain the new line of thinking, and just a reminder, if you have missed some of our passed shows, catch the podcast through our website, ExtremeGenes.com or find us through iTunes, or iHeart Radio and of course, if you have an iPhone or Android device, go to your phone’s store and get the free Extreme Genes app and download it so you can listen to any past show on your phone. It is time once again for your family histoire news for this week, and there’s a lot of it. Of course number one, beginning Thursday, it is the world’s largest family history conference, convention, whatever you want to call it. It is RootsTech! It is held at the Salt Palace convention center in Salt Lake City, Utah. There will be classes and booths and products, speakers, you name it. It’s going to be huge fun! So, come by the Extreme Genes booth and say “Hello” if you happen to be there and remember, if you can’t be in Salt Lake City, you can get actual streaming of events from wherever you may be. Last year, there were over 100,000 people worldwide who followed along through live streaming. Former first lady, Laura Bush, entertainer, Donny Osmond and my friend, AJ Jacobs, writer extraordinaire and creator of the upcoming, world’s largest family reunion in New York, will all be speaking. It’s going to be a great time. Find out more at RootsTech.org.
Speaking of Utah, it is reported that some 2,300 inmates in county jails in Utah, Idaho and Arizona, have created family history indexing teams. Meaning, your next breakthrough may come, courtesy of these individuals. The inmates are working with our friends at FamilySearch.org, viewing original records, then entering the information they see into special forms, allowing researchers to find the material in a searchable database. Last year, the inmates indexed somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 million names, with 1 million coming from just one location in the month of August. The program is making a positive impact on many of the inmates while they serve interested genies worldwide. Here’s another reason why it’s so important for you to make sure your family records and photos are digitally preserved. Last week a fire broke out at one of the largest university libraries in Russia. The library has been around since 1918 and is the repository for some 10 million historic documents, some dating back to the 1500s. Of those, some 1 million records were damaged or destroyed. The president of the Russian Academy of Sciences compares the institute of scientific information on social science in Moscow to our Library of Congress. Most of the damage was done by water used to douse the fire. MyHeritage.com has announced that they have added some 900 million global historical records to their searchable, digital archive. That brings their total to more than 6 billion records. Now mix that with their awesome technology, and they’re only getting bigger and faster. And this is all part of a recent strategic partnership agreement made with FamilySearch.org.
You know, there are a few families with as rich and appalling a history as the Hatfields and McCoys of Southern West, Virginia. Their feud began on the 1870s over a stolen pig, and timber rights notched it up. Well, by the late 1880s, their shooting war resulted in the deaths of at least a dozen people in both families and by 1900, as you may remember, it was over, but the families didn’t sign a truce until 2003. There have been miniseries and reality shows and books all about it. The reason I mention it here is because there’s an entirely new twist in the story. Descendants of the 19th century combatants have gone into business together. What are they selling? What might you guess? Moonshine! It’s all legal! They call it, Hatfield and McCoy Distillery, Drink of the Devil! The distillery is on original Hatfield land and is being shipped to New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida and of course, West Virginia. By the way, some of the family members are not involved, because of their religious convictions. There’s no doubt that times have changed for the Hatfields and the McCoys. That’s your family histoire news for this week. Read about these and other stories at ExtremeGenes.com. Coming up in three minutes, “he was cleaning out a trunk, when he saw something hidden at the bottom”. A treasure that now sits in the Smithsonian. What was it about and why was it in his family? We’ll talk to Dr. Timothy Tackett next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 75
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Timothy Tackett
Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. It’s America’s Family History Show, I am Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth and we always enjoy talking about discoveries with people and what they find because it creates a fascinating energy within a family to discover things that people maybe haven’t know for generations. We have a man on the phone right now who found something that doesn’t affect just a few generations, we’re talking centuries here. He is Dr. Timothy Tackett from the University of California Irvine, a professor of emeritus there. Hi Dr. Tackett, how are you?
Dr. Tackett: I’m fine. How are you Fisher?
Fisher: Awesome. I am absolutely stunned by your discovery and from our conversations off air I don’t sense that you necessarily were. It was a pleasant find, but it didn’t surprise you that was in your care, was in your possession.
Dr. Tackett: Yeah, that’s right. It was some time in October, I think 1998 that I was helping my mother pack up and move because she was going to be moving in with my little sister in Washington State. We were putting everything in to boxes and we were emptying a large blue trunk which had been on a shelf in our garage for decades and at the very bottom after we had taken everything out, under some newspaper we found a large piece of cotton cloth covered with small images. Some were colored and some were black and white, and many were clearly Native Americans with feathers or teepees or other kinds of symbols. And you’re right, though I’d never seen this before and was quite stunned to find it at the bottom of a trunk, I recognised it. I knew it was some kind of a Sioux winter count and it was similar to the large photo that hung in our living room throughout my childhood.
Fisher: Now why the Native American connection within your home? Are you partially Native American?
Dr. Tackett: I’m not, but my family on my mother’s side has a long standing link with the Rosebud Reservation South Dakota where the Brule Sioux or Lakota, as they’re sometimes called, has been parked since the late 19th century when they were pushed in to the Reservation. So they weren’t South Indian at all, but they had served in various commercial and administrative positions on the Reservation over the years.
Fisher: And so they had this because why?
Dr. Tackett: Well, the other thing that I knew right away is that this must have been linked to the collection of John Anderson. Anderson was my great uncle and he was a frontier photographer among his many other talents, and he took hundreds of photos of the Sioux in the late 19th and early 20th century. Most interesting photos have now been copied and sent to the Smithsonian Institute. This one represented an Indian with his back to us, painting on a buffalo hide inside of a tepee, making his little gifs, these little images, one for each year of the most important event that had taken place in the life of a tribe. I know about this because this was part of our family law and every time people came to our house they would describe what this was. And so that’s how I knew right away what this was.
Fisher: So you had seen something like this or were aware of it from your youth and this was the way that the Sioux would basically create a journal of their tribe, for how long? What period did this particular cloth cover?
Dr. Tackett: Well, after I took it back to Irvine with me and showed it to my colleague, Professor Tanis Thorne, who is a specialist on the history of the Plains Indians, she in turn linked me with an independent scholar named Mike Chowdary. We were able to go quite a way in identifying this and it began, as best we can tell, in 1752.
Fisher: Whoa! [Laughs]
Dr. Tackett: And it continued to 1889. I don’t know if you’ve read anything about this, but you can calibrate these things. There are a number of winter counts available around the country, must have been hundreds once upon a time. Most of them are lost. We have a certain number in the early years, early anthropologists had actually talked with the keeper of the winter count as it was called, to try to identify the images, what do they mean.
Fisher: Okay, first of all– wait a minute, the term “winter count” means what?
Dr. Tackett: Well, every winter at the end of the year, we think the tribe, the men of the tribe, got together and discussed what was the most important event in their tribe during that year.
Fisher: Right. So this is like when we do our top ten list in December, right? As we approach the new year.
Dr. Tackett: Yes, this is the top one.
Fisher: The top one thing because you don’t have a lot of paint. I get this. Okay. [Laughs]
Dr. Tackett: Well, I don’t know what the principle was but that’s the way it worked, yeah.
Fisher: And so, from what I’ve read about this a little bit, you were able to determine one year that lined up with some kind of astrological experience?
Dr. Tackett: Yeah. There was a great meteor shower in November of 1833. Recorded all around the world actually and it must have made a huge impression on the Indians at night watching it, and almost all of the winter counts. That was the big event of that year of 1833/34 and so then you can go backwards and forwards.
Dr. Tackett: Counting the little images and are able to determine what event occurred in what year.
Fisher: In what year, because certainly they weren’t going to use the same year calendar that the Europeans were using, fascinating.
Dr. Tackett: That’s right.
Fisher: So your family obtained it, how do you think they got a hold of this thing then?
Dr. Tackett: Well, John Anderson, was the photographer but his profession was really as a store keeper. He eventually bought a general store, or a trading post we might call it, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. He was very sympathetic. Very caring for the Indians, many of whom were in terrible straits you know, life on the Reservation was not and is not easy.
Dr. Tackett: And so he would often trade, he wouldn’t have any money he would take artefacts, Indian artefacts and give them food or merchandise in return. Over the years he collected a huge amount of these artefacts and eventually when it was about time for him to retire, he sold them to the state, I guess the state of South Dakota, and anyway, they ended up in the Rapid City Museum where they are to this day. I saw them. He didn’t give away everything. When I was a kid I visited their home after they retired to California. I remember seeing all these Indian artefacts around and later was shown also some of the photographs that were kept. I’m almost sure that that’s what happened. Now after Anderson died and his widow moved in with us, I’m pretty sure that she brought that trunk and that the trunk was probably full of other artefacts and probably his photographs we had and still have a huge collection of his photographs. I guess the winter count cloth in question was hidden under newspapers. We just never noticed it.
Fisher: Right and he probably never noticed it or she did when she went to get rid of the rest of the stuff, right?
Dr. Tackett: That’s right. That may well be the case. [Laughs].
Fisher: We’re talking to Dr. Timothy Tackett. He is a professor of emeritus at UC Irvine, and he and his family discovered some time back this amazing thing I would call a time capsule of the Sioux, wouldn’t you Dr. Tackett?
Dr. Tackett: That’s a good description of it. Absolutely! For historians it’s a wonderful bit of history.
Fisher: Yes it is.
Dr. Tackett: Among other things, we can compare some of the winter counts, there are a handful of them still and we can see at certain points they are registering the same thing from the same year, and another point registering altogether different things. It’s a pretty good indication of how these bands within the Brule Sioux moved around the prairie. Some of the smaller groups would go off by themselves for a while and then come back. So it’s quite a remarkable history both of the chronology and the geography of the lives of these people in the 18th and 19th century.
Fisher: What was the reaction of some of your colleagues at UC Irvine when you showed them this?
Dr. Tackett: Well, especially my colleague [Laughs] Tanis Thorne, as I said, is a specialist in the history of the Plains Indians She was just aghast and thrilled.
Dr. Tackett: I worked very closely with her in documenting this and it was with her help and advice that eventually the two of us took it to Washington and gave it to the Smithsonian of the year 2000.
Fisher: And from what I’ve read about it, the Smithsonian considers it one of their greatest treasures.
Dr. Tackett: It’s quite a treasure, yes. I don’t remember how many winter counts I have, I think it’s under ten. Some of them are, of course, preserved in animal skins in their original form. One, we had was clearly some kind of copy that was begun now with the new civilization of the white world moving in upon them. They were able to put it on cloth instead of hide and you can see that they were using colored ink to do this instead of natural pigments that the earlier keepers would have used.
Fisher: So the thought is that the winter count keepers did this in the later part of the 19th century, copying material going back to 1752?
Dr. Tackett: That’s right, and there must have been a skin for this group. Mike Chowdary, I mentioned him earlier, actually identified this as the Mortgagee band, it was a small band of Indians that wandered about and they must have had this on a skin, and then at some point copies were made, perhaps to give to the sons, who knows, and the originals was lost. The original was lost but this is a wonderful copy. A beautiful work of art too.
Fisher: Okay, let me be really shallow for a minute here Dr. Tackett, what do you think it’s worth monetarily? [Laughs]
Dr. Tackett: I don’t know. [Laughs]. I had it appraised and I can’t remember, thirty thousand dollars or something like that.
Fisher: Wow. You know, I’ve always maintained that family history research can be like an onion with all these different layers, because this wasn’t just the history of this particular tribe, but it became part of your family’s history as well, how they obtained it, how they maintained it, how it was discovered, what you chose to do with it when you got it, which was the most responsible thing you could possibly have done. And you know it’s just fascinating to hear these stories.
Dr. Tackett: Yes, it brings back wonderful memories. You know I was sad to give it up but obviously it had to be preserved somewhere and looking over, we had it on our dining room table or in the house for many months studying it over. It was a wonderful work of art, it was a wonderful work of history and it also imparted a sense of great sadness that this ended, you know?
Fisher: That’s right.
Dr. Tackett: ‘89 was the last entry and then it stopped, and this was soon after they were put in Reservation and their history you know, just stopped at that time and they were kind of forced in to a very different civilization, lost much of their culture their plains culture. So it’s sad in that way to think about.
Dr. Tackett: These are stories that my family often talked about, the tragedy of the Indians.
Fisher: Well, we’re all just caretakers of whatever it is we come upon, whether it’s a family bible or a rare photograph, or in your case I mean the record of an entire people in your hands.
Dr. Tackett: That’s right.
Fisher: Because we move on and these things can stay behind and become a time capsule. Dr. Tackett thank you so much for your time and all I can say is wow! And thank you for doing what you did with it so that so many future generations can benefit from it.
Dr. Tackett: Oh it was a pleasure to share it with you.
Fisher: And coming up next, you know it’s not always how our ancestors lived that make the story, sometimes it’s how they died. Wait till you hear the story that we’ve got for you coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 75
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Sigrid Olsen
Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, family history radio, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. You know, when we research our ancestors, of course, we’re mostly looking at how they lived their lives, but a big part of their life story is often the way their lives ended. And this is a story that is one of the most fascinating things that I’ve ever run into before. I have a friend on the line from Salem, Oregon, Sigrid Olsen. Hi Sigrid, how are you? Welcome to the show.
Sigrid: Hi. It’s great to be on Extreme Genes.
Fisher: And I’m thinking back to this. 91 years ago this week in your neck of the woods in Albany, Oregon, there was a disaster that just riveted the nation. Let’s talk about that a little bit.
Sigrid: That’s right. It remains today the largest single source botulism case where it wiped out three entire families. But it’s a story really that involved so much of our ancestors. They spent a lot of time preparing food, and we forget that.
Sigrid: You know, when you read old Pioneer journals, sometimes people say “Well, they’re kind of boring.” The ones that were kept by the women had a lot to do with food preparation, gathering the food, making the bread, preparing the meat.
Fisher: Let’s go back through this, “The botulism case in Albany, Oregon, 1924.”
Fisher: And it killed, I want to say, was it 12 people?
Sigrid: Yes, 12 people died. And in 1920s and even before that, there had been a real emphasis on home canning and food preparation. This kind of started when people began to realize that they could prepare a lot of their foods at home. They had been doing that, but a lot of times they’ve been relying on root vegetables through the winter. But now they could actually take those summer vegetables and prepare them with canning methods and have them last all year long. And so a lot of this was promoted in these newly emerging publications, Lady Home Journal, Good House Keeping magazines, they encouraged women to be home canners. So in areas where they had availability, produce in the summer, home canning was seen as a real source of pride for women.
Fisher: Sure. Yes.
Sigrid: Right. And they would preserve. Some people had a goal, you know, 100 quarts of every vegetable. And then they would pass it on to their daughters, this canning method and things like that. But in this case what happened, something went terribly wrong. And it has all the elements of a tragedy. Families were involved, there were near misses. And it happened with three families. And so the story is compelling, because, but for a fatal mistake, they might have all lived.
Fisher: So where did it begin? Did it begin in the same kitchen? Were they all working together?
Sigrid: That’s right. There was a party, and it seems like there might have been a rash. [Laughs] Those are two ingredients for some accidents, I guess. Emelia and Reinholt Gerber, they were an older couple, and they had some cousins that were coming over from Germany, a young couple with their child and they wanted to hold a party. And in order to have a party they invited their own daughter and her husband and their four little girls. So now they had a get together. And then Emelia phoned her other daughter and said “You think you can make it for the party?” And she said “Well, no. My car needs to be fixed. So my oldest son and I will go take the car and get it fixed, but we’ll drop off our little boy.”
Sigrid: So when they had the party, they had a number of relatives all together. And she took out of her storage area a can of beans. It wasn’t a can of beans, it was a home can. Probably maybe even a zinc lid, or ball jar, and it had not been canned effectively. It had had some faulty food preparation which allowed the botulism spore to grow. She did not boil the beans, which apparently was common practice for that time. Amazingly I guess they knew that they should boil the beans.
Fisher: You know, everything you’re saying to me sounds like something that could happen now, anywhere at any time. But this was disastrous.
Sigrid: That’s right. I had known about this tragedy from the time I was a young girl, because I can remember my parents who lived in the area, grew up in the area, telling me to boil the beans, always, boil all the vegetables, even if they came out of a commercial cannery. So she took the beans and put them into a bean salad. And they had the party, and then the mother and her older son came and picked up the little boy. And then within a few hours they began to have the effects of botulism, which is paralysis. And the hospital and the medical professionals in Albany were overwhelmed, but they did know it was botulism. They had to do some flu thing right there on the spot.
Fisher: Is there a treatment for botulism, if they had known?
Sigrid: Well, there was not at that time available in Albany, but they had started to create anti serums. There had been botulism deaths before, but they all had been isolated. In this case it wiped out three families. But, you know, they didn’t all die at the same time. And there was a newly emerging source of information that helped telescoped this case so that the whole nation was riveted on what was happening, and that was radio.
Fisher: Network radio. Yes.
Sigrid: There were very few radio stations in America. And so because of that you had this intense interest in these cases. Within a year you will have three famous stories emerging, the Albany Botulism case which will be on the front page of all the papers and in the radio stations, but regular updates. A year later you’ll have the Diphtheria Serum to Nome. There were regular radio updates for that, and then also Floyd Collins getting stuck in a cave. But the botulism case was so interesting because you had these updates, and then you had this real tragedy coming over several days. They were reported on who was dying and if they’d be able to save some of them. But it turns out all three families were wiped out, the young couple from Germany, their little boy, and then the daughter and her husband and the four little girls, and including the baby who she was nursing.
Fisher: Oh… So you mean the botulism could actually go through the mother’s milk?
Sigrid: That’s right. It permeated the breast milk barrier, and the baby died. And then the older couple, of course, it was her canned beans and then the little boy who was visiting. His mother and his older brother had to fix the car, they escaped. But this was such an exciting and tragic story, because everyone who listened to it probably had home canned goods on their shelves right there.
Fisher: Oh! I wonder how many people actually threw that all out and never canned again as a result.
Sigrid: They did. And in fact, this case was so pivotal that it lead to a rise in what we call Local Canneries, where people would now bring their food to a local cannery and it would be done under the supervision of these factory owners, and then you would pay a small fee to have your goods professionally canned. And those local canneries were around up until the 1970s. So people were much more cautious about canning what we call low acidic vegetables. This case is in every article about botulism.
Fisher: I’ll bet.
Sigrid: Not just in America, all over the world, because it was a classic example of how they were unaware that they were eating this poison.
Fisher: Well, having some Oregon ties myself, I’ve gone through some Oregon history and I remember running across a photograph of the funeral. I guess they didn’t all have their funeral at the same time. But there was like 11 coffins in this one room, it was the most remarkable photograph I had ever seen.
Sigrid: Oh yes. And they are buried together in the Albany riverside cemetery. This for years was their memory this, this was a cautionary tale about food preparation. It shaped so many families about certain kinds of the vegetables you’re just not going to can. And if you do can those, you’re going to make sure you boil them.
Fisher: It’s obviously still part of lore in the Albany, Oregon area, about these three families being lost as they were. Do they still have memorials for them?
Sigrid: They do, and the grave site is very large, it is this outstanding memorial. Sometimes people will go by and place flowers on it because they know about the history of the family. There were so many little children that died because of the botulism paralysis.
Fisher: How our ancestors died is often as incredible as how they lived. Sigrid Olsen from Salem, Oregon, thank you so much for your time!
Sigrid: Okay. Thank you, Scott. I loved being on Extreme Genes!
Fisher: Wow! What a story. Can you even imagine? Alright, coming up next, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority, with a question about the white glove test, do you use it? And do you even need it? We’ll find out in moments on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 75
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: It is preservation time at Extreme Genes, family history radio, America’s Family History Show. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. Hi Tom, how are you?
Tom: Super duper!
Fisher: All right, we’ve had some interesting questions sent into the show recently. One of them comes from Frank in Atlanta, Georgia. Frank’s asking about handling of old historic documents. He went to an archive recently and wanted to know, why it was that they were insisting that he handle these documents without any gloves? And you know, it’s interesting that you ask this, Frank, because I went through the same experience in Connecticut, a year and a half ago. I was handling things 350 years old. And I asked about the gloves, and they said, “No, no, no! We don’t want you doing that!” And that was a little bit of a surprise to me, and I wasn’t so sure they knew what they were doing.
Tom: Oh exactly! You know, you see it like in the TV shows, in the movies and even on some of the TV reality shows where they have the gloves and they’re touching the documents.
Tom: The thing you need to look at is, it’s not one size fits all. Most times when you’re handling papers, just wash your hands, get the dirt off, get the debris off of them. Make sure there’s no oil on your fingers. Because the thing is, a lot times its dexterity. If you’re trying to turn this page with these cotton gloves, even if they’re really thin, that you’re not used to wearing, you’ve got a chance you’re going to tear that page. And tearing that page is going to be worse than a fingerprint, so to speak, on the page.
Fisher: Right. Right and that’s true, unless they’re quite dirty, right?
Tom: Exactly! And you know, like there’s some articles you can read about on the internet that tells you, “Hey, if your hands are so dirty you need to wear gloves, go wash your hands!”
Fisher: Yes! [Laughs]
Tom: Yeah, I mean that’s common sense. Wash your hands!
Tom: If you’re somebody that sweats a lot, yeah, it’s okay to wear the gloves, just turn the page just very carefully. Take your time. And the most important thing to remember, whenever you’re using gloves, they’re one use gloves.
Tom: Take them off and throw them away! Even if they still look clean, they could have some debris on them that you don’t see, they could have mould spores in them that you don’t see that you might transfer next to the next book that you’re going to start looking through.
Fisher: Or paper.
Tom: Oh yeah, all kinds of stuff! So if you think you really need to use gloves, go ahead and do it, but be very, very careful! Don’t be flipping the pages like you normally would, where you have good dexterity with your fingertips. And then throw them away so you don’t transfer something from one book to another book.
Fisher: So what we’re seeing on TV and in the movies with the white gloves and all this is usually basically for show, wouldn’t you say? [Laughs]
Tom: Oh absolutely, absolutely! It’s just, you know, like when you see a gun fight scene, the sounds in a movie are not what guns really sounds like.
Fisher: Right. Yeah, yeah, exactly! So it’s just all set up for show. All right, the next question then, what about with photographs? What about with daguerreotypes? I mean, these are the same kind of thing. You can get fingerprints on those, oil can damage old pictures, right, like CDVs carte de visite?
Tom: Oh absolutely! In fact, one thing that’s really a problem when we’re scanning photos is, at one time, I believe it was probably the ’70s, they had this kind of a paper that they called, the satin look. And it was paper that was really, really smooth and glossy.
Tom: And it wouldn’t pick up your fingerprints, which is great! However, when you start scanning that, if you have a super high resolution scanner, it’s going to pick up the little valleys and the little mountains in the picture, and you’re going to have, it’s going to look like you shot it on a dirty scanner, because it’s going to reflect off the pits and the valleys and look really, really bad. So a photo like that, touching them is no problem. And even back tracking a little bit to the old touching the paper, if you have real super glossy pages like in an old family bible has a lot of art, maybe something like that might be a good time you want to put on some gloves so you don’t leave the fingerprints on each one of the pages. With negatives, thing that are glossy, which we’ll talk about more in the next segment, you want to be a little bit more careful than you are with just a normal cotton piece of paper or a linen piece of paper.
Fisher: You know, it sounds, Tom, like you have to kind of balance the fingerprints versus the potential damage to the pages themselves. So really, all you need to do is make sure your hands are really clean before you touch anything, and don’t wear gloves.
Tom: In 99% of the situations, wash your hands thoroughly like you’re going in for surgery and you should be fine.
Fisher: All right. And there’s a great article on this that was printed in Forbes Magazine just a few years ago and we’re posting it on our website, ExtremeGenes.com. All right, we’ll continue, we’ll talk about Daguerreotypes, old photographs, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 75
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: We are back, final segment of Extreme Genes, family history radio, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher. Tom Perry is our Preservation Authority and every week, we talk about all kinds of things, the do’s and don’ts of making sure we keep your treasure safe. And we were just talking about white gloves, how you really don’t need to use them to handle documents. And then it gets us into a whole new area and that is really old photographs. Now as you know, Tom, back in June of last year, I acquired a group of old family daguerreotypes, nine of them, from the 1850s. And there’s a lot of people that are concerned about, “Well, you know, do I touch these with gloves? Do I handle them?” what DO you do with daguerreotypes?
Tom: Well, it’s again kind of like the gloves, you know, it’s best not to use the gloves. When we’re getting into things like this, it depends how porous the material is, what condition it’s in. If you have something that’s starting to flake, because it’s like an old daguerreotype that has been exposed to a lot of heat and it’s starting to flake, some of the chemicals that they used to preserve the picture is starting to come off.
Fisher: And you’ll see some copper colors come through too, the blue.
Tom: Oh exactly!
Tom: Exactly! And that’s what it is. It’s a chemical reaction. Again, just like we talked about in the first segment, wash your hands like you’re going to commit surgery. Get them nice and clean. And if they’re starting to flake, then use some super thin cotton gloves, but still hold them on the side, don’t think, “Oh, I’ve got gloves on, I can touch the face of it.” Don’t do that!
Fisher: No, you never touch the face of a Daguerreotype.
Fisher: The other side of it is too. Hopefully your daguerreotype is protected by glass to begin with.
Fisher: Most of them are, but some of them are fully exposed. That’s going to be a problem long term in itself, because you’re going to get the corrosion that hits. And you want to get those sealed by a professional, but that’s a whole other topic.
Tom: Exactly! So, and if you have any of the ones that are naked that don’t have anything on them, like a lot of the old tintypes, some of the old copper types, which are really rare. Just your finger prints can cause a chemical reaction that’s going to mess them up.
Fisher: It’s kind of fun sometimes though, you’ll see a fingerprint and you just wonder, “Is that my ancestor’s fingerprint?”
Fisher: Usually, it’s the photographer’s, but your family may have handled it at some point, and that is the fingerprint perhaps of your great grandfather.
Tom: Oh yeah! And see, that’s a neat thing when you have your own scanners or bring it to somebody like us that can scan it, before you go to a professional to have them cleaned up, whether you have us do it or go to a preservation society and have them clean your stuff, scan them first! Because that fingerprint could have been, you know, great, great, great, great grandma. And you’ll have that fingerprint and maybe one day they’ll have the technology or a way to find out if that really was her fingerprint. So always shoot everything before you have them color correct it, before you have anything done to them, shoot them! Now again, with negatives; we have negatives that come in from the turn of the century when they were first starting to do them.
Fisher: Oh, right. Yeah, I found one from the ’20s in an old family bible.
Tom: Oh, and stuff like that’s incredible! They could have been using them for a bookmark. Who knows why it was in there, but you’ve got it and it’s wonderful. And be careful with those, because there’s usually a glossy side and a dull side. The dull side is the emulsion side. That side, YOU DO NOT WANT TO TOUCH NO MATTER WHAT! If it’s got dirt on it, if it’s got stain on it and you can’t get like a squirrel tail brush to very carefully get it off, don’t touch it! Don’t mess with it!
Fisher: Well, you can clean up the print afterwards anyway, can’t you?
Tom: Exactly! And, the thing is, so many people end up damaging those. We get people that bring us in slides that, you know, that has a booger on it or something.
Tom: And then they clean it off and then they’ve damaged the slide. Technology nowadays is so great with Photoshop with scanning materials. Scan it with the goop on it, and then in Photoshop, remove it. And then you’ve still got your negative totally preserved, the best that it can be, without taking a chance and damaging it. If the water spots or things are on the non emulsion side, which is usually the glossy side, then you know, you can get some stuff and very carefully clean it up. But again, don’t do that unless you really know what you’re doing, because you can damage it! The best thing to do is, scan it and fix it in Photoshop. There’s no reason to take a chance. And like you see, when you’re cleaning your clothes and you’re using Clorox, it says, “Try it in a spot that won’t be seen.” same thing. If you say, “No, I want to clean this with a Qtip, go down in one of the corners and see what a Qtip does before you take it across the whole thing and damage your negative.
Fisher: All right. And you can ask Tom questions at AskTom@TMCPlace.com. Thanks again, Tom.
Tom: Good to be here again.
Fisher: That is it for this week! I can’t believe it! If you missed anything, want to catch it again, the podcast is out starting Monday at ExtremeGenes.com. Take care. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!