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Mike April uses a scanner and laptop computer to digitize old photographs.


Photos trigger interviewees' memories of stories about the past.
Stories Behind Photos
by Mike April, Earthwatch Teacher Fellow, Massachusetts

We spent the day reviewing and scanning historical photos at the Skagit County Historical Museum. Many of the photographs were from the museum collection and showed what pioneer life along the river and towns in the area looked like over 100 years ago.

Our job was make digital copies of the photographs using a scanner connected to a laptop computer. We were extremely careful with the photographs. We wore cotton gloves to remove the photos from their sleeves so as not to touch the prints with our hands. After a photo was scanned we would print out a hard copy, label it, and place it in a notebook.

The printed copies are used during interviews to spark interviewees' recollections of what life used to be like or how things have changed. We will also use the prints as a reference to photograph the same places for "then" and "now" comparisons.

We looked at photos of logging camps and people standing on enormous cedar stumps. Some of the early settlers came for the forests. They wanted the Douglas fir which can grow up to 250 feet. The Western red cedar was also a valued tree because it is resistant to rot and was used for roofs and houses.

In looking at the pictures I realized how much humans had changed the landscape by cutting down trees, and clearing land for farming. These same practices over the years had destroyed salmon habitat, and also displaced a tribal way of life intertwined with the life cycle of the salmon.

Photos courtesy of Earthwatch