CAPE CORAL, Fla. — You can’t travel to the past but what about bringing the past to the present?
That’s exactly what one Cape Coral man is doing. For the past fifty years, Chris Specht has had three lifelong passions. Photography, computers, and his family tree. Now he’s adding ‘preserving history’ to that list.
“History is disappearing before our eyes, in people’s closets, garages and moldy boxes," says Christopher Specht, Owner of Family Scans and Archive16.com.
In this Cape Coral condominium, you won’t find just old photographs and film strips. But a window to the past, that’s becoming clearer by the frame.
“Think of yourself as a teenager and think of your parents being teenagers," said Specht. "Now take that one more step and your grandparents are playing on the beach, being a young couple in love, and I found that. It was a sight that I would never imagine I would see. And you know what? I realized that no matter the generation, a couple in love is a couple in love.”
For Chris Specht, that realization came when he set out on preserving old family videos. He was frustrated at the cost and the quality of transfer services. So he discovered his own way to organize and show off his past.
“I started going to junkyards and granite salesman and hardware stores and Radioshacks- and I built a time machine," Specht says. "I built my own way of high quality digitizing and it’s the best chance to preserve these films that are now in an accelerated rate of decay.”
Now that Specht has figured out how to preserve his own family history, he has partnered with the Cape Coral Museum of History and the SW Florida Historical Society to do something even bigger.
“I am making the samples of my work available to the public for the benefit of the public," says Specht. "For something that I’ve really through working on the family tree, have really grown to appreciate museums and historical societies and state archives.”
But it’s not just a matter of sorting through old film. Occasionally, Specht will come across a strip that has been effected by what’s called ‘vinegar syndrome.’ It’s when the film decays and breaks down to its natural elements. Once it starts, it can’t be stopped but it can be spared.
“It’s very difficult," says Specht. "You might be able to slow it down if you treat it really well and then freeze it; literally freeze your film. But otherwise, once it’s gotten to a point like some of these films are, that’s as good as you’re going to get. For a lot of films this is going to be their last stop before they die.”
While the old films may decay over time they won’t be gone. Instead, they’ll live in a digitized form. Allowing family history to live on.
“My grand niece is going to be able to say that she has moving pictures of her great, great, great grandma who was born in 1888," Specht says. "That is really neat and a lot of credit goes to my grandfather for starting the tradition of Christmas movies every year.”
And Specht says he will continue working on his family tree, preserving and treating old family photos and videos. He also plans to offer his services as a business for others looking to preserve their family history.
You can find more information about Specht's research online right here.