Compact discs are nothing if not compact. They’re a great way to store digital information — like digital images — in a small space without using hard drive memory.
It’s the envelopes and jewel cases I can do without.
Over the years, I’ve collected about a dozen CDs burned with photos, but I’ve seen collections with hundreds of CDs. Back in the days of film, some developers offered CDs along with the prints. Nowadays, those CDs are probably more valuable than the prints for people interested in making digital photo books (I still contend, though, that a print is longer lasting than any digital storage, whether the print is the photo or the photo book).
If you have a lot of photo CDs to organize, begin by separating the CDs from the prints. Like negatives, digital backups should be stored separately from the prints — preferably in a bank deposit box or a trusted relative’s house but certainly in a different room. If anything should happen to the prints — fire, water damage, tornado — those digital backups can be used to recreate the collection.
Organize your photo CDs like your photos — either in themes or chronologically.
I chose HIPCE’s transparent CD box with hanging sleeves to store my photo CDs in a consistent manner. I found it at the Container Store where there are many other good options. This one stores 120 CDs, and I’m using it for DVDs and music CDs, too. It provides a rainbow of transparent sleeves (so I can see the face of the disc), a place for labeling and a box cover to keep out dust. I was able to dump a whole pile of hodge-podge envelopes and jewel cases (including the torn cover from “The Best of Cher,” alas), streamlining my collection considerably.
If you have hundreds of CDs, you might want to create an archive file. Simply number the CDs (the HIPCE sleeves are already numbered), and type up a list of numbered CDs with descriptions. That way, you can do a search of the list to find, say, photos from “summer 1997” or “Mary’s graduation,” then locate the corresponding numbered CD.
I kept a few of the covers from my music collection, though honestly, they all could have been trashed. The result is a lot more, um, compact.