Organizing Memories

How Should I Organize and Pack?

The #1 question we get, even more common than pricing questions, is:

“How do I pack up this stuff to get it safely to Memory Fortress?”

This page will go into detail about best practices we have discovered through time. You don’t have to pack everything exactly this way. But following the guidelines on this page will result in better quality, less confusion, and faster turnaround times. We will dive into each form of media, and finish at the bottom with packing instructions.

Loose Photos, Albums, and Scrapbooks

I have loose pictures.

  • The first step is to group them, because these groups will result in digital folders at the end of the process, loaded with the exact pictures in order.
  • Next, wrap each group with rubber bands. It’s best to bind them both horizontally and vertically if possible.
  • After that, place each group in a sealable plastic bag (like Ziploc). This insures that even if the rubber bands should break in transit, the integrity of the groups will be maintained.
  • Lastly, label the groups with the names you want for your digital folder. For example, if your first group is pictures from cousin Joe’s wedding, write “Joe’s wedding” on the bag. Or slip a piece of paper that says “Joe’s wedding” into the bag itself.

I have pictures in albums.

  • Try to remove pictures from albums first, because the price is lower when you send in loose pictures.
  • Check each album to make sure no pages are at risk of falling out.
  • Look for picture slots where two or more pictures may reside in one slot. You may have reasons to remove these extra pictures prior to shipping, or label them with specific instructions.
  • Give each album a name. For example, “1972-73.” Or, “Europe Trip 1965.” You would rather have your names than the ones we make up.
  • Your folder system will be named album-by-album.

I have scrapbooks.

  • We scan scrapbooks by the page on a special large format scanner. So the pricing is a flat rate of $1.39 per scrapbook page, and is not determined by individual content on each page.
  • Please rubber band each scrapbook. Horizontally and vertically banding scrapbooks is best. Transit can cause the pages of the scrapbook to shift occasionally without rubber bands.
  • Please label each scrapbook. This will become the name of the digital folder. Each scrapbook page scanned will become a picture file within that folder.
  • Leave detailed instructions for your scrapbooks, if necessary.

Slides and Negatives

I have loose slides.

  • Organize the slides as best you can, and place them in groups of 20-30, stacked on top of each other.
  • Rubber band each stack both horizontally and vertically loosely. This will prevent the slides from moving in transit.  Please don’t rubber band tightly, as this will physically bend the cardboard slides and complicate the conversion process.
  • Place each rubber banded group into a sealable plastic bag (like Ziploc). This will keep the slides grouped together even if the rubber bands should break.
  • Label the bag (or a piece of paper in the bag) with a suitable descriptive name for the slide group.

I have slides in carousels and/or trays.

  • Your slides are already fairly organized. Check before sending to make sure each carousel or tray is organized like you want it.
  • Label each carousel/tray with descriptive names, like Wedding 1971. Otherwise, we will give them names like Tray 1 and Carousel 2.
  • Send the slides in the carousels and trays. You will get everything back just the way you sent it. (If you have those slides in trays with metal brackets, we have to remove the brackets prior to scanning. Don’t worry, we recycle them and you won’t ever need them again. The slides will still come back in the same order.)
  • Your digital folder system will be by carousel and by tray.

I have negatives.

  • Most negatives are in plastic or paper sleeves or envelopes of some sort. Most of the time, customers have no idea what’s on the negatives, and if they correspond to any printed pictures around the house.
  • Because of this, keeping them in the sleeves makes sense. Please leave them there.
  • Separate by format. This means group the 35mm negatives together (picture of 35mm) and group the non-35 mm negatives together, even if there are multiple formats in that second group.
  • Label the sleeves if it makes sense. If you don’t label them, you will get one large digital folder with all of the negatives in it.
  • Place the sleeves in sealable plastic bags for safe transit.

Videotapes, Film, Documents, and Books

I have videotapes (VHS, Hi8 and 8mm, VHS-C, and MiniDV).

  • If the videotape is in its own case, please leave it there, with a label. Your digital file will be named with that label. “Christmas 1991” sounds much better than “Tape 4.”
  • Group all of the tapes together if possible. Processing videotapes requires different equipment than other forms of media, and we can get started much more quickly if we aren’t searching for it.
  • Your tapes will ultimately come back on a DVD … one DVD for each tape. If you want all of your tapes on flash drives as well, we can do that. Please keep in mind that very large flash drives are expensive, but we can put up to 250GB of movies on a single flash drive if you really want that.

I have reel-to-reel film.

  • Please keep reel-to-reel film grouped together as well.
  • Identify the size of each reel. This will give you good ideas of both length and cost.
  • Recognize that smaller reels will be stitched together during processing to create a single longer movie. If you send eight reels about three inches in diameter (which is about 50 feet per reel), you will receive back one single reel of 400 feet, stitched together. Your DVDs will have several files on them that can be played as a single longer movie.
  • Reel-to-reel movies, by definition, did not have any sound. There won’t be any audio on your DVD when you receive it.

I have documents and/or books.

  • Grouping is critical, because we create searchable PDF files from the groups.
  • Labeling the groups is also critical; these labels will be the names of the files.
  • Remove as many staples, paper clips, binding clips, etc. as possible while maintain the integrity of the groups. We have to charge for all the unbinding and we will keep things in groups but we do not normally rebind items. This saves you money.
  • Leave detailed instructions. A lot of what we get are old letters. And legal documents. The majority of our phone calls with customers during the processing phase involve document orders.
  • Recognize that anything big (like yearbooks, or newspapers that unfold) will require a special large format scanner, with a higher price point.

Other Stuff

I have floppy disks, CDs and/or DVDs.

  • Double check to see if you are sending copyrighted If you find a disk with copyrighted material, please don’t send it. We can’t copy it and will send it back if you do send it.
  • Label each disk appropriately. This will be the name of the folder. Everything on the disk will then become a sub-folder.
  • Clarify how many copies you would like. We can make as many as you like.
memory fortress photo scanning osbon

I have anything else that isn’t listed above.

Please call us at 678-579-2249 to discuss specialty items. While we generally stay away from memories that aren’t easily replicable, we may be able to offer custom pricing in certain situations. A good rule of thumb to use is that if there is any chance that your memories could damage Memory Fortress equipment, we probably are not going to accept those items.

Got It! Now What?

OK … I’ve done everything listed above and I’m ready to box it and ship it.

You need to get a sturdy box, and tape it securely at the bottom and on the sides. There is no such thing as too much tape, where your precious memories are concerned. And once you’ve placed everything in the box, we strongly recommend filling in the gaps with bubble wrap, or old newspapers … anything that will keep the memories from shifting. Most importantly, you should include a note to us with a few basic details:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email
  • Guesstimated quantities (number of photos, number of slides, etc.)
  • Resolution (for photos, slides, and negatives)
  • Folder instructions
  • Deliverable device types (DVD, Flash Drives) you would like

You would be surprised at how many boxes we receive that don’t have names, numbers, and email. The process and overall experience will be far better if you provide us with this basic information at the beginning.

Once everything is boxed up tightly and securely, it’s ready to be taken to the Post Office, or UPS or FedEx. 98% of our customers use one of those three services to ship their packages to Memory Fortress.  Make sure you get tracking numbers after you ship your items, and please email Memory Fortress ( or call us at 678-579-2249 to let us know your memories are on the way!