What to do with travel slides

G.F. Mueden of New York City wrote about his boxes of thousands of travel slides — mostly of landscapes, city scenes and architecture, some with handwritten labels — and asked readers for suggestions on good uses for them (July ’07, pg. 16). He said that copying them onto CDs was labor intensive and rather expensive.

Numerous readers wrote letters to Mr. Mueden with ideas (to Good Uses for Travel Slides, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818; e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com), as follows.

We are in our mid-70s and continue to travel extensively. After each trip, we carefully (painfully) edit the slides to a reasonable number, usually three carousel trays. Then we write a script that tells something briefly (one sentence or less) about each slide. By doing this, we can insert interesting and pertinent information throughout the slide show without boring people by keeping one slide on too long.

The narration is quite fast-moving. We have found this to be very effective and have received many positive reactions from our viewers. We show our slides to groups of friends, neighbors and church groups, and every month we do a slide show at the local nursing home.

We now have over 100 carousel trays in our storage room — over 30 scripted slide shows. The pictures are excellent, and the script (we’ve been told) is very interesting, entertaining and educational. We’ve traveled six continents and will soon be going to number seven, Antarctica.

Our children have no interest in these slides, so what can we ultimately do with them? Perhaps we could donate the slides to the nursing home, if they would have someone capable of “running the show,” so to speak. Other than that, we have no ideas.

And, of course, everything is digital now; slide projectors are becoming antiques. To convert our slides to digital is too daunting a task.

Many of our carousel trays were bought at auction or estate sales. We brought them home, dumped out the old slides and used the good trays for our own slides. We shudder to think that that might be the fate of our own treasured slides!

Emily Moore

Greenville, IL

My husband, Gale, and I have been world travelers for a long time. We have ditched film photos in favor of digital photos, and we create DVD slide shows of our travels. We feel the results — the photos combined with special transitions and background music — are more indicative of our experiences than what we get with any other media.

(When we create a slide show for someone else, we charge $1 per slide, which includes scanning and/or editing photos to be inserted into the slide show, opening and closing the slide, background music and saving all to a DVD with an appropriate label.)

After reading Mr. Mueden’s letter, we were challenged to determine what could be done to help him out. We scanned a few old slides we had on hand and were less than thrilled with the quality of the copies we got.

We realize that, in the past, 35mm slides were state of the art and the best quality of photo anyone could expect. However, we found that our slides were dirty, the color had somewhat faded and the quality was not good, plus it was apparent that the time it would take to edit a slide to bring it up to current standards would be exorbitant compared to today’s standards.

Just to carry the project a step further, we took one of the better slides and had a print made from it at our local film processor. That print was far superior to what we had done at home.

Our next step was to have a few of the old slides digitized and compare the quality. I had a print made from an old 35mm slide (1953). The slide did not appear to be the greatest, so I was pleasantly surprised when the finished print was of super quality. Actually, I was so impressed, I gathered up all the old family slides I could find and dropped them off to be put on CD.

After picking up the CD, I found that the slides will require some minor editing to bring them up to the quality they need to be for either printing or a slide show. On some of them there is evidence of dust and some fading. The cost for transferring 75 slides to the CD was under $25.

If prints are the desired end product, I would say have the slides transferred to a CD, edit them, if necessary, and then get prints made. This would still incur quite a bit of expense, but it would be the best way to achieve optimal-quality prints.

However, a DVD slide show would still be the most economical and likely the most long-lasting, convenient way to preserve photos. Upon adding the cost of transferring the original slides to the CD plus the cost of the DVD and the time to create the slide show, the entire process should run approximately $1 per slide. If I choose to make additional copies for other family members, it would be quick, slick and cost only a blank DVD.

No more heavy photo albums for us! It gives us great pleasure when someone shows us their travel photos and we return in kind by playing our latest travel DVD. Even our travel agent enjoys them.

Karen Burdick

Poland, NY

Mr. Mueden, on the question of your wonderful and loved slides, although I don’t know where they all are from and assume they’re multiple sites worldwide (or at least continent-wide), I would suggest the following.

Teachers can always use slides. Language teachers show them to their classes and use the language they are teaching to describe them and develop a learning experience. Geography and history teachers make very good use of them as visual aids. Consider art teachers, also.

Museums have lecture series, and I am sure their lecturers (sometimes graduate students with little money) could make very good use of them.

Travel clubs, of course, might make use of them, although many members will have collected their own slides.

And there are always libraries, which may want such a collection in their archives.

At least three of the above (libraries, teachers and museums) will have the technology and resources, not to mention eager interns, to convert these into digital media.

May I also suggest that as you go through them for distribution, you consider putting on audiotape your remembrances and information about this memorabilia. First-person history is priceless, and the words of a nonagenarian are even more so.

Good luck with your project!

Pat Arcaro

Glen Mills, PA

You could call the local high school district, ask for the foreign language coordinator and offer the slides. He/she will know which language teachers in the district could use them in classroom instruction and can distribute them accordingly.

School districts have easy/inexpensive ways to digitize your images so students can use them in reports, oral presentations and other learning activities.

If you do this, you might also be able to take a tax deduction, as this would be a donation to an educational nonprofit organization, but you need to check with your tax preparer on this.

Esther Perica

Arlington Heights, IL

Years ago I unexpectedly found myself the recipient of nearly a thousand 35mm slides, along with an old camera and projector, from the estate of an elderly lady I had met briefly not long before.

I accepted the gift out of respect for her family but had no real use for the collection, which consisted of records of her family’s travels before and just after World War II. Most of them were unlabeled images of “standard” European sites, and there was a small group of pictures of the 1930s New York World’s Fair.

I found a professor who was interested in World’s Fairs and shipped that lot off to him.

After casting about for a place for the rest, I discovered a nursing home which accepted the slides and projector. They told me later that the patients enjoyed looking at the slides and guessing where the pictures were taken.

I recently went through Mr. Mueden’s experience, as I dealt with my own collection of several thousand slides taken 30 to 40 years ago. I reviewed them all, picking out a few that had specific interest for others in my family and preserving those in plastic pages which fit nicely in one 3-ring binder.

I also got quotes on putting the rest on disc (also at 75¢ each) and considered doing the job myself, but I finally decided that I could buy picture books containing better-quality photos and so I recycled the lot. (My daughter thanked me for taking care of it.)

Paul Howard Moore

Charlotte, NC

I donate old travel slides, excluding those with us in them, to our local school district. They tell me they use them in a variety of ways: geography, history, art, etc. Hope this helps.

Kay Graf

Winters, CA

Regarding converting travel slides to digital, Jim Coates of the Chicago Tribune recently addressed that issue, as follows:

“Get yourself a good digital camera and a few memory cards and then set up (your) slide projector in a darkened room with a proper movie screen. Mount the camera on a tripod set to shoot right over the same spot the projector points at and fire away. Click once and slide No. 1 is projected. Click again on the digital camera to copy the image on the screen into a digital file suitable for burning onto a DVD.”

Hope that helps.

Arthur Dolinsky

Chicago, IL

When I moved from New Jersey to Florida and then to North Carolina, I always took all the many boxes of our family slides and 8mm movies with me. I said that one day I would go through them.

Recently, my daughter was staying with me for several weeks and she sorted them out. It took her a lot of time, but she whittled over 3,000 slides down to several hundred. Many of our slides were in carousels, so she went through each one with a small hand viewer.

I consulted a local photo store and they gave me very good prices on putting the slide images onto CDs or DVDs. Many years ago it was a very costly process, but now they can get about 100 slides onto a CD or DVD for about $50. You would have to check some nearby photo stores to see what they can do. I also made photos directly from some slides and that ran about $1 apiece.

My family slides went back as far as 1958, so the quality was not good and I had to get rid of many of them.

Good luck with your project! I think you need a person to help you who can say, “Why do you need 15 pictures of that mountain?”

Julie Lochridge

Chapel Hill, NC

I have the same type of problem Mr. Mueden has. I suggest he contact Custom Camera (2791 Jerusalem Ave., North Bellmore, NY 11710; 516/826-0055, www.buyfoto. com).

I had spoken to them about transferring slides and was told they simultaneously make a DVD and CD holding 600 images. I believe the price is 50¢ per slide, but they’re much cheaper in a large quantity. The CD is in case you want to e-mail a picture to someone.

My problem is that, although my slides are in trays, I need a previewer to sort out what I want to discard. I used to have a unit (45 years ago) that consisted of a translucent plastic sheet, about 18"x18", with horizontal ridges every 2½". It was mounted on a cardboard stand behind which I set up a 40-watt bulb. Mr. Mueden might be able to help me with an idea.

Linda Lander

North Bellmore, NY

Although we have only a few travel slides, we did have over 1,600 family slides. We chose to keep these slides, however, in another format: DVD.

We sorted through them, culled the total to about 700 and then paid for DigMyPics (2820 E. University Dr. #116, Mesa, AZ 85213; 866/364-5952, www.digmypics.com) to transfer them to a DVD. The result is one DVD for all of these pictures, and the quality is exceptional.

Was this cheap? No, the cost per slide was 49¢, but they are now preserved for our family, and we no longer have to store carousel upon carousel of slides, only one slim DVD.

The big caveat in this situation is that our children were interested in seeing themselves as kidlets, as were our grandchildren, and getting all of those slides converted cost us hundreds of dollars.

Would they be as interested in our travel slides? Probably not. So in the case of those slides, we would have viewed them one last time, maybe saved a limited number and then lovingly placed them in the disposal bin for the weekly pickup.

It’s a difficult decision for all of us as to what to keep and what to throw away. One recommendation — if you decide to preserve them, be sure to use the most recent technology available.

Barbara G. Hubinger

Danville, CA

Mr. Mueden, I smiled when I read about your concern as to what to do with the slides, which you took during the time when slides were the medium of choice. I smiled because I am having the same concern.

I am a little younger than you are and probably have the same number of slides, roughly about 8,000, plus many strips of color and black-and-white film. Since the countries where we traveled during the ’60s and ’70s have changed so much, it would be a travesty to lose those images, so I plan to purchase a film scanner and digitize the slides and film strips and put them on an external hard drive, where I will sort them and categorize them in some logical manner (to be determined), then probably put them onto CDs.

I have been wanting to get a slide scanner, but until recently they have been priced at more than I felt I could afford. Nikon now has come out with a moderately priced unit which has my interest. The Nikon Coolscan V ED costs about $550, and a good write-up on the unit can be found at www.dealtime.com/xPR-Nikon-Scanner-CoolScan-V-ED~RD-154403966596.

If you are interested and want more information after I get my unit, feel free to contact me; e mail dickhahn@bellsouth.net.

Dick Hahn

Merritt Island, FL

I have two ideas for what to do with lots of travel slides.

1. There’s a gizmo sold by Hammacher Schlemmer (Fairfield, OH; 800/321-1484, www.hammacher.com). It’s the “Slide and Negative to Digital Picture Converter,” which scans images and converts them to digital.

A USB cable plugs into a computer for photo transfers, and included software allows photo editing and also converting negatives into positives. It sells for $99.95 plus shipping and handling.

2. You could offer the slides to a camera club or a travel club.

Eleanor A. Robb

Scottsdale, AZ

We also have thousands of slides from many years of travel on six continents. They have been sorted and placed in proper boxes, but they still take up half a closet.

I asked my son, an electrical engineer, what would be the best format for transferring them to a more compact medium. He said not to use DVD or any other type of device. The reason? Technology. It is changing so rapidly that as soon as we made a disc, the technology would be obsolete in a very short time. Witness the demise of the 8-track tape, VHS and the floppy disc.

His suggestion is to cull the slides to a few favorites from each trip and have photographic prints made of them. That way, they will always be available and viewable by anyone at any time and not dependent on any electronic format.

Ronald Ross

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

My mother is a subscriber to ITN and shared Mr. Mueden’s letter with me. My company has a unique service which allows anyone to send in their old photographic prints, slides and negatives to be digitized and archived online, forever and always.

As far as I know, we’re the only ones who have this sophisticated, mail-in service with online preservation. We do 200,000 scans a day, and we have a $100 million Network Operations Center — plus storage in our granite vault under the Wasatch Mountains in Utah — so your digital content is safe with us.

Included in the service is a CD with all the .jpeg files and a thumbnail printout for quick reference. Of course, we send all of your originals back to you as well. Once the images are preserved online, you can publish, print and share them in new ways. (Photobooks, movies, posters and other memorabilia are additional paid services.)

Per 100, the cost for digitization is approximately 75¢ per print and $1 per slide/negative. With prints, for over 1,000 the price drops to 45¢ each. With slides, for over 200 the price drops to 87¢ each (or 75¢ wholesale). We also have monthly subscription services which allow you to tackle a large photo project little by little, as well as bulk services which allow you to pay over an entire year, interest-free.

Anyone can open a free account and get free storage for up to 5GB (approximately 5,000 images) and free digital uploads. This even covers images already digitized. Any media services requiring going from “physical” to digital or from digital into physical format will be charged for at the rates described above. New accounts get 20 free (standard-size) prints and a free 8"x10". We also have a video preservation and storage service.

I am happy to help ITN readers explore their options. Contact me directly at Eclectic Content, Inc. (phone 215/732-5704, ext 1, e-mail kennerly.clay@verizon.net or visit www.eclecticcontent.com).

Kennerly Clay

Philadelphia, PA

This may not be a solution for everyone, but it has made my wife, Rosanne, and me very happy at our household as well as friends we have told about this.

Microsoft XP, Vista and Apple have “screensaver” features that let your computer randomly select digitized photos from your photo folder and display them. In addition, many new giant-screen plasma and LCD TVs have a feature that lets you put a memory card into them (allowing random or sequential viewing), and others link via WiFi to your computer and its photo database.

In short, there are becoming lots and lots of ways to have your travel (or personal) photo collection shown on your PC screen or your main viewing TV screen.

From personal experience, I can tell you the delight that I feel when, after the phone rings and interrupts a session at the computer, a few minutes into the conversation the computer screen begins showing “blasts from the past” of trips and places and people I have forgotten.

WalMart and other discounters will transfer slides for a few cents (not 75¢), and they are plenty good for this use.

The great news is that there is a fine service — 30 Minute Photos Etc. (92 Corporate Park Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606; 949/474-7654, www.scanmy photos.com) — that will scan any mixture of photos from 8"x10" to 3"x3" at 300 dpi and put them on a DVD for a low flat rate. I chose the “stuff a box as full as you can” deal and paid $200 for 6,700-plus photos to be scanned — at three cents each! I have no relationship to this company; I’m just a happy customer.

Between the travel photos I have taken and personal and travel photos I have had scanned, I have over 30,000 photos, any one of which might bring back warm memories the next time I let the computer sit unused for a few minutes.

I started this project because we moved to a smaller house and I didn’t want to keep projectors and screens and pounds of prints that never saw light of day. As a bonus, a fraction of them get viewed each day.

Also, I use a service from www. mozy.com that automatically backs up unlimited amounts of photos (and other computer files) for about $50 a year. I no longer worry about having all of my digital photos disappear in a fire, hurricane or hard drive crash.

My ultimate dream is to hook an old computer to my large-screen TV so that the images are displayed like a picture on the wall. Some large-screen devices let you do this with a DVD or camera memory card, but I will use an old computer to do it.

Yahoo! and TiVo used to have a low-resolution system for this, but it’s now phased out. Higher-megapixel images will be needed to look really sharp on the highest-resolution HDTV screens, but even the older scanned photos that I haven’t retouched yet bring nice memories when we see them.

Larry Francis

Sun City Center, FL