Using Vintage Images in Offline Marketing and Programs

Picturing the Past - Part 6 of 6  

Just because you’ve used a digital image on a social platform like Facebook or Pinterest doesn’t mean you can’t use it in other settings. Old images are effective additions to blog posts, web pages, newsletters and offline materials such as programs, business cards, menus, membership forms, questionnaires, posters and flyers. There are also a number of ways to build complimentary programs and events around vintage images.  

Reinforcing a Destination’s Historic Appeal


Marietta is the oldest town in Ohio and one of the top ten tourist destinations in the state. Visitors consistently identify history as one of the town’s main draws. The Marietta Washington County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau is using vintage images to reinforce the area’s reputation as a history-rich destination. And they’re doing it without saying a word.

The latest edition of the Getaway Guide, an annual magazine-style publication distributed to thousands of potential visitors, includes several vintage shots. The old images are mixed with contemporary ones. They are neither captioned nor described in the accompanying text yet the message is clear: Marietta embraces her past and has much to offer travelers interested in heritage and history. 

The staff also placed a large electronic picture frame on the receptionist’s desk in the Visitors’ Center, an area that gets lots of walk-in traffic. The frame plays a repeating loop of the best vintage images along with gorgeous color sunset, river and garden shots.  

Logos and Merchandise

Maybe your nonprofit operates on a shoestring budget. Or perhaps you’re just starting out and there is no way you can afford to hire a designer and have a logo created. Take a look your old images. Is there something that speaks to you? Is it in the public domain? Could you crop and modify it? Could you use special effects from one of the free image editing platforms we discussed in Part 4 to transform it into something wonderful? 

As long as you are careful about copyrights, images, including the nice new logo you just created, can be incorporated into physical products you sell to the public such as cards, calendars, magnets, tee shirts, address books, etc.  Refer to Part 3 for more on copyrights and public domain issues.

Traveling Slideshow

Once you have digitalized images, it’s easy to create a slide deck in Powerpoint (or whatever presentation software you prefer) that functions like an old-fashioned slideshow. Simply copy and paste the images onto the blank slides and shrink or enlarge them until they fill the screen.

You can present this show anywhere you can use a projector: senior centers, classrooms, churches, restaurants, conference rooms or in your own facility. If you don’t have a projector, find out if you can borrow one from the library.  If you’re presenting at a meeting or for an organization, ask them to provide the projector.

Developing this sort of program does not have to be complicated. You don’t need to intersperse text slides with the photos. It’s the picture people want to see. Just show the slides and explain what each picture is of or about and when it was taken. Make it informal. Allow people to ask questions and make comments.

There are obvious advantages to sharing images this way. Not everyone has a computer. Not everyone is on Facebook or Pinterest. The slideshow format allows you to bring interesting material to a new audience, to expand your reach in other words.

Even for those who are active on social media, seeing images projected on a wall or large screen is much different than viewing them online, especially on phones. Many of the small and significant details that go unnoticed on small devices are easy to spot.

The possibilities for program themes are limited only by the number and type of pictures you have. For a half hour program, I include 45 – 60 slides. If you don’t have enough historic shots, intersperse contemporary shots such as the Then and Now comparison shots described in Part 5.  

Here are a few theme ideas to get you started:

  • Lost Hotels, Bars and Restaurants
  • Railroad Days, Streetcars, Trolleys
  • Rough Times – Prostitutes, Police, Criminals and Prohibition
  • Ghost Ads, Then and Now, What Lies Beneath (basements)
  • Victorian Downtown
  • Riverboat Days
  • The 1913 Flood (hurricane, tornado outbreak, great fire)
  • Tour of schools and churches
  • Memories of Winters Past – blizzards, huge snowstorms
  • Grand houses and old neighborhoods
  • Let’s go shopping! 

In a creative variation on the traveling slideshow concept, the Mid-Ohio Valley Players, a local community theater group, projected slides of vintage images as backdrops for a recent production.  


Hands-on Workshops

Lectures on how to preserve family photos are fairly common. Why not offer a workshop on how to digitalize photos? If you have a scanner, invite people to bring their photos in. If you don’t have a scanner, download a free scanning app for your phone.  

Another possibility is to offer a workshop on editing photos. Once you get comfortable with the tools and platforms discussed in Part 4, show others what you’ve learned.

Thanks to smart phones almost everyone has a camera. That doesn’t mean they know how to take good pictures. Many people would enjoy a basic photography class. Perhaps you can collaborate with a local photographer, offer some tips and suggestions on lighting and composition. Or you could invite someone from one of the local phone stores to come in and show people a few of the fabulous things they can do with their devices.  

Doctored Victotorian spirit photo

Doctored Victotorian spirit photo

A fun lecture and workshop combo could relate to altering photos for fraudulent reasons. If it’s near Halloween, structure the program around Victorian spirit photos. Challenge your attendees to recreate some convincing ghost shots before the next session. Click here for an article about spirit photography and Victorian photo fraud techniques.

History of Photography

When people start looking at old pictures, they begin to have questions about how they were taken and developed. An interesting program or series of programs could be structured around the history of cameras and the technology of photography.

What are daguerreotypes and tintypes? How can you tell the difference? Why didn’t people smile in old photos? Was it because the camera shutters had to stay open a long time or was there really another reason? Why are some pictures from the 1890s so clear and well-preserved while our instant color shots from the 1970s have faded away? 

Bring in examples. If you don’t have examples, contact the folks at your local museum, historical society or library. Antique dealers are another other good source of information and samples of old photos. If you can’t locate any physical examples, find images online and create a Powerpoint presentation to illustrate the various topics.  

Highlights of these programs would make excellent Facebook posts, a Pinterest board, a newsletter article or a blog series for your website.

Field Trip

Old photos of your town can be the basis for several types of tours. You can offer a photo safari.  Escort participants into the field to take shots of historic buildings or neighborhoods. Have people email you their best shots, put them on slides and get everyone together the following week for a photo show with wine and cheese. Give awards for the best shots and feature them on social media.

Post some obscure local images that you’ve cropped to remove clues as to their location. Send people on a scavenger hunt with the goal of finding the building, standing in the same spot and recreating the photo.

Print vintage shots on copy paper and make packets of handouts. Then guide a walking tour through the pictured neighborhood stopping along the way and using the images on the handouts as a sort of living Then and Now exercise. This should stimulate discussion about how and why the area looks the way it does now versus the way it did in the past.

How have you used vintage photos effectively offline?