Behind each course at lynda.com is a team of dedicated people who work closely with the author throughout the process. We are passionate about creating quality content that informs and inspires our members.
Recently we released the course Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos.The making of this course inspired some of us to take a closer look at our own history.
It began as a treasure hunt of sorts. We knew we would need many different types of old photographs to use in the course. I began working with new author Janine Smith a few months ago to begin preparing for the course.
Janine and I discussed what the purpose of the course was and what our objectives for the course would be. Among our goals was the hope that we would inspire subscribers to preserve their photographic treasures and documents and add to the story of their local and family histories. Little did we know at the time, that this course would end up piecing together some of our local Ventura County history.
I contacted the local museum of history to see if there were any images that might have been neglected due to deterioration.
The librarian, Charles N. Johnson, offered two images from the library that weren’t in use because they were in such poor condition. One photograph, a speckled image of a bearded man, was of Royce G. Surdam, who founded the town of Nordhoff in 1874. The townspeople of Nordhoff later changed the city’s name to Ojai, the original home of lynda.com.
A second image, which was crumbled and torn into half a dozen pieces, was an early photograph of an old Spanish-style adobe named Rancho Camulos. First built in 1853, the rancho had been home to Ygnacio Del Valle, former alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles and member of the California State Assembly. The rancho is now a designated National Historic Landmark and known as the “Home of Ramona,” as the rancho and its inhabitants inspired the 1884 best-selling novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson.
Taymar Pixley, the director on the project, brought in her own family photographs, and discovered a piece of Ventura history abandoned at a thrift store.
“My grandmother was very into our family history, and I had lots of old family photos in a storage container in my garage,” says Taymar. “Pulling these out for the course and seeing how many of even my own childhood photos were fading, losing colors, or had been damaged really made me want to put the principles of this course to use.”
Taymar wanted to be sure to have a lot of options to use as props for the set, so she stopped by a thrift store to see if she could find any old photographs.
“The guy behind the counter handed me a big stack and told me to see if any of them interested me. There were birth certificates, baptismal records, old letters and photographs. As I went through the stack I realized that everything in the stack belonged to the same couple, Ed and Clare Franz. Some of the documents and photos went back as late as the 1800’s, all belonging to the same family who had lived here in Ventura and owned a local pharmacy. One of the letters, written in 1918, really grabbed my attention. It was to Clare and read, What you’ve heard is true… I leave for the convent tomorrow.”
Taymar bought the entire stack from the thrift store for $10. Janine was as thrilled with the find as Taymar was, and even did a little research to see if she could help find out if the couple had any descendents who might be interested in these things.
“Through working on this course I am now more excited and intrigued to find out more about my local and family history,” says Taymar, “I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned to help preserve it.”
Taymar and I are continuing the adventure that this course started. We returned to the Ventura museum of history and spoke with the librarian about the documents Taymar found. He was able to find more information about the family, including Ed Franz’s father, the patriarch of the family who set up shop in Ventura in the 1870’s.
He was very impressed with the restoration that Janine did on the photographs from the library, and gave me tickets to an event celebrating its history that very weekend at Rancho Camulos. I attended the event and gave a print of the restored photo of the rancho to the historical curator. It turns out that the original image is from the late 1890s, and may help solve a mystery surrounding later reconstruction of the kitchen wall. Taymar plans on continuing to restore her family photos, and is hoping to find descendents of the Franz family. If she cannot find relatives who want the documents, she will donate them to the Ventura museum of history.
Our original intent was to inspire our subscribers to preserve and treasure their photographs and images. It turns out that this course, in turn inspired us.
photos by Lucas Deming