Get tons of family photos, letters and ephemera?
June 16, 2012 4:32 AM   Subscribe

Where can I legally get/buy people's printed family photographs, entire photo albums, letters and personal ephemera? I might need hundreds of these and they must be originals. If the items were somewhat dated, say at least 20 years, that would be nice.

I live in Sweden so I'm afraid the recommendations have to be somewhat general, e.g. auctions or flea markets.
posted by Foci for Analysis to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Post an ad on whatever the craigslist equivalent is there.

Offer to provide digital copies of the photos (uploaded to an easy to use Flickr/other photo sharing site) if you can keep the original. That'd likely entice some people.
posted by thylacine at 4:35 AM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Besides auctions and flea markets, antique stores and estate sales may also be good possibilities (presuming that they're prevalent in Sweden).
posted by box at 4:40 AM on June 16, 2012

Best answer: Put an ad on freecycle or craigslist (or something similar) and people might give you older pictures/keepsakes for free even. Is it an art project? State that in the ad and people will feel it is less creepy.

Also check ebay, there are people who sell old pictures and whole albums (but often older ones).
posted by travelwithcats at 4:40 AM on June 16, 2012

Best answer: Ask the people staffing the local refuse dump / tip / wherever people dump stuff after estate sales etc to save the albums for you.
posted by Kerasia at 5:11 AM on June 16, 2012

Best answer: Look for ads of house clearances. People often give away stuff for free and are just happy to get rid of it. It's probably mostly things from recently deceased elderly people, but who says they didn't have recent photo albums? If you can offer to get rid of some other things, you might even get albums for free. My parents gave away a couple of pretty decent furniture to people who offered to also take the old, ugly, unsellable shelves.
posted by MinusCelsius at 6:51 AM on June 16, 2012

Best answer: Estate sales. If you can find a company that specializes in them you can usually get on a mailing list for upcoming auctions. You really want ones where some poor person has died without leaving family behind in which case you'd probably get a whole lifetime of stuff like that.
posted by wwax at 6:53 AM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd also contact genealogical societies and ask if they'd circulate your announcement to their membership.

Do they need to be Swedish people? Because I have boxes full of that shit in my basement, including an envelope full of post-breakup letters from my grandmother's old boyfriends which she saved for some reason*. One of the guys broke up with her because he wanted to become a Roman Catholic monk.

*Because she was a terribly vindictive, grudgey lady, is why.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:27 AM on June 16, 2012

Best answer: From what I’ve seen, every time someone dies a bunch of this gets thrown away. It’s depressing when you see it happen. The only problem is going to be catching it before it gets thrown out. I think most of it doesn’t even make to yard sales, etc. because the sellers think no one would want it.
posted by bongo_x at 8:23 AM on June 16, 2012

Best answer: This issue comes up for me, and for my colleagues (professional organizers), all the time; people clean empty out extended relatives' homes, have no idea who/what the photos or letters depict and don't want/need to maintain them, but wish there were somewhere these could be sent other than a landfill. (This very issue popped up on the National Association of Professional Organizers' chat list last week.) When there are historical issues (like my client who had a relative's WWII era photos and documents), I can help direct them to the appropriate agency or society. But when they're just "stuff" it can be harder to find a solution that satisfies the clients' desires for the papers to go to a good home.

If you created a blog/web site, explaining this desire to collect (perhaps stating the purpose for doing so), POs could guide clients to make these available to you, likely at no cost (or perhaps by covering the shipping/mailing cost). NAPO is the largest member of the IFPOA (International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations), but depending on what you're seeking, you could have sources from around the world, from the US and Canada to the UK and Australia, from Japan to Europe. The closest PO organization, geographically, to you would be Nederlandse Beroepsvereniging van Professional Organizers (NBPO), but if you want variety, depending on your intended use, you could have quite the set of (ongoing) resources. Let me know if you need more info on this option.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:13 AM on June 16, 2012

Best answer: Maybe ask your nearest old age home if you can put a flyer up in the lobby offering to buy resident's collections? If it's for art or other non-creepy purpose, then of course say so in the ad.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:59 AM on June 16, 2012

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